Free legal aid is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all the citizens of the country. Article 21 of the Constitution of India states, "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law". Hence ensuring legal aid to everyone is necessary for ensuring substantive equality.
Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity
According to Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, the following categories of people are entitled for free legal services —
-A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
-A victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
-A woman or a child;
-A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
-A person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or
-An industrial workman; or
-In custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of clause(g) of Section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956(104 of 1956); or in a juvenile home within the meaning of clause(j) of Section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 1986); or in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (g) of Section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987(14 of 1987);or
-In receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the state government, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the central government, if the case is before the Supreme Court.