Incapacity to consult, captivate or get represented by a lawyer during any kind of legal proceedings in courts, government offices, authorities, and departments etc. for preserving or prosecuting a person's legal rights and obligations may amount to the same thing as being underprivileged of the security and equal protection of the laws. Each one should have an equal right to the most extensive system of basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberties for all. One need not be a litigant in the court to seek aid by means of legal aid. Legal aid or help should be available to anybody at any place- be it on the road, at the workplace or at his/her house.
The Indian Constitution has put in place a legal system which undertakes to protect the rights of everyone. However, one must realize that existence of rules and regulations and law is one thing and its implementation is another.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution, constitutes India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic which secures to all its citizens justice—social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
The Constitution has defined the common goal of its citizens in its Preamble. The immortal value of constitutionalism is the rule of law which has three phases, i.e., rule by law, the rule under law and rule according to law. Under the Constitution, it is the primary responsibility of the state to maintain law and order so that the citizens can enjoy peace and security.
In the context of constitutional demands and state obligations, legal aid has assumed a more positive and dynamic role which must include strategic and preventive services. Mitigating ‘legal poverty’, i.e., the incapacity of many people to make full use of law and its institutions has now been accepted as a function of a ‘welfare state.’ Apart from the social, economic and political needs on which the claim of legal aid rests, it is now recognized as a constitutional imperative arising under articles 14, 21, 22(1) and 39A of the Constitution as well as under different statutes and legislation which also acquires their powers from the constitution. The Constitution guarantees ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’ as a fundamental right.
The system as guaranteed above under Constitution w.e.f. 26 January 1950 worked satisfactorily in the initial years. However, with the rapid growth and progress in population over the years, it was being felt that the justice delivery mechanism of the Indian society and Indian polity was costly for the poor, the laws a little too complex for the illiterate to understand and the procedure is as slow to bring about quick relief.
Article 39A of the Constitution provides that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.