Access to Legal Aid Services for Undertrials

AuthorHon'ble Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani
Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Access to Legal Aid
Services for Undertrials1
Hon’ble Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani2
Legal aid for the poor, should not be poor legal-aid!
This quote should be the motto of all persons associated with legal-aid services,
whether as administrators, legal-aid lawyers or other resource persons engaged in
the process.
We are all well aware of the constitutional and statutory framework on which
the scheme of providing legal-aid services is based. For a quick summary, Article
21 of the Constitution of India is the fount of the constitutional guarantee that no
one shall be deprived of his right to life or personal liberty, except in accordance
with law; and the right to fair trial and the attendant right to legal-aid has been
read into this constitutional assurance by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Then there is the mandate of Article 22 of the Constitution, which assures to an
accused person the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of one’s choice.
Articles 14 and 39A which speak of equal justice and free legal-aid, are also part
of the constitutional scheme, with Article 39A having been added by way of the
42nd Amendment to the Constitution made in 1976 w.e.f. 03.01.1977. A reference
to the wording of Article 39A is relevant:
“39A. Equal justice and free legal-aid.—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 eco-
nomic or other disabilities.”
(emphasis supplied)
We also have section 304 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 which mandates
that legal-aid shall be provided to accused persons under trial before a Court of
Sessions (and by State Government notification, to other undertrials) at State
expense. The constitutional and statutory guarantee has thereafter been detailed
and enacted by way of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, the main object
Journal of National
Law University Delhi
7(1–2) 7–13, 2020
© 2022 National Law
University Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/22774017221104270
1 Transcript of the key-note address delivered by Hon’ble Jus. Anup Jairam Bhambhani at a national
webinar organised by the National Law University, Delhi, on 28th November 2020.
2 Judge, High Court of Delhi.

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