The Legal Aid Scheme was first introduced by Justice P.N. Bhagwati under the Legal Aid Committee formed in 1971. According to him, Legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society so that the mission of administration of justice becomes easily accessible and is not out of reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement… the poor and illiterate should be able to approach the courts, and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining justice from the courts. Legal aid should be available to the poor and illiterate, who don’t have access to courts. One need not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid.
The beginnings of the modern legal aid movement in India had materialized in the 1950s and 1960s when efforts were made to ensure the legal representation of the indigent persons who were accused in the criminal cases. (Milkmen Colony Vikas Samiti vs. the State of Rajasthan).
These initiatives were led by the State governments and were mostly dependent on the participation of the practicing lawyers. (K.R. Srinivas vs. P.M. Premchand 1994 (6) SCC 620).
However, the real impetus came with the publication of the ‘National Juridicare Report’ in 1978 which made several recommendations to give meaning to the constitutional command of ensuring the legal aid for the needy persons, as per Article 39A which had been inserted in 1976. This was followed by the establishment of the Committee for the Implementation of Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS) under the leadership of Justice P.N. Bhagwati. It was in pursuance of this body’s recommendations that the Legal Services Authorities functioning at different levels were conceived of and the same found its way into legislation. (Khatri vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1981 SC 926).
The Free Legal Aid movement has made the legal system very accessible to all citizens irrespective of their income. In a socialistic democracy, the role of the judiciary is vital; it interposes between the state and an individual in relation to the socialistic and un-socialistic approach of the state's legislative measures and their implementative devised mechanism for securing justice.