Legal Services Authorities

From Justice Definitions Project

What are Legal Service Authorities/Institutions ?

The Legal Services Authorities have been established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen because of economic or other disabilities and to organize Lok Adalats to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice based on equal opportunity.[1]

The key responsibilities of the authorities are to promote legal knowledge, offer free legal aid, and mediate conflicts peacefully. It provides free legal aid by way of providing the services of efficient services of lawyers. Any person, who fulfills the criteria, is entitled to free legal aid. It includes (Central, State & District) Authorities and (Supreme Court, High Court & Taluk) Legal Services Committees.

Official Definition

Constitutional Framework

The Preamble to the Constitution of India, promises of securing to all the citizens, Social, Economic, and Political justice. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution make it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before the law and equal opportunity for everyone. To further this promise Article 39A provides for free legal aid and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society on the basis of equal opportunity.

As per these Constitutional provisions, a nationwide uniform network of legal service institutions were established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.[2] The Act provides for the legal foundation and its functioning at various levels, including the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) at the national level, State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) at the state level, District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) at the district level, and Taluk Legal Services Committees (TLSCs) at the taluk or sub-district level. Additionally, the Act lays down the functions, composition and powers of these authorities.[3]

'Legal Service Authority' as defined in Legislation

While the term 'Legal Service Authority' has not been specifically defined in the 1987 Act, the different kinds of Legal Service Authorities and their framework have been defined under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

The National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010 has defined Legal Services Institution means the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the State Legal Services Authority, the High Court Legal Services Committee, the District Legal Services Authority, and the Taluk Legal Services Committee as Legal Services Institutions.[4]

Kinds of Legal Services Institutions

National Legal Services Authority

Chapter II of the National Legal Services Authority Act lays down the provisions for the constitution of the National Legal Services Authority and the functions performed by them. The body is to be constituted by the Central Government. It shall consist of the Chief Justice of India as Patron-in-Chief, a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the President, in consultation with the CJI, who shall be the executive chairman. The Central Government is also required to appoint a person to be the Member-Secretary and the term of the office and other related conditions are prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the CJI.

The NALSA lays down policies and principles for making services available to the people. It has also been given the responsibility to utilize the funds at its disposal and make appropriate allocations of funds to the State Authorities and District Authorities. Additionally, it organizes legal aid camps, especially in rural areas, slums or labour colonies; programmes for legal education and encourages the settlement of disputes through Lok Adalats and other alternative dispute resolution methods. It further takes necessary steps by way of social justice litigation concerning consumer protection, environmental protection or any other matter of special concern to the weaker sections of society and for this purpose, gives training to social workers in legal skills. It also undertakes the duty to promote research in the field of legal services with a special reference to the need for such services among the poor. Finally, people who lack basic amenities. Finally, it coordinates and monitors the functioning of all the other authorities below it and gives general directions for the proper implementation of the legal services programmes.

Supreme Court Legal Services Committee

The central authority is also assisted by the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee which was established under Section 3A of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 19 to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society in cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. It comprises of a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson, along with other members with experience and qualifications prescribed by the Central Government. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) can appoint the Secretary to the Committee.

The powers have been given to the Central Authority (NALSA) to prescribe functions of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. The same are contained in section 5 of the Supreme Court Legal Service Committee Regulations, 1996 which includes receiving and scrutinizing applications for legal services, administering and implementing the legal service programmes, maintaining panels of advocates among others.

State Legal Services Authorities

Chapter III of the Act lays down the constitution of State Legal Services Authorities and its functions. Every state is required to constitute a body called the Legal Services Authority for the State to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it. The constitution of the State Legal Services Authority involves several key components. Firstly, it includes the Chief Justice of the High Court, who assumes the role of the Patron-in-Chief. Secondly, a serving or retired Judge of the High Court is nominated by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court to serve as the Executive Chairman. Additionally, the State Government nominates other members possessing specific experience and qualifications, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.[5]

It functions as a crucial institution responsible for executing a range of vital tasks. Its foremost duty lies in implementing the policies and directives laid out by the Central Authority (NALSA), thereby ensuring the uniformity and effectiveness of legal services across the state. A significant part of its role revolves around delivering legal aid to individuals who meet the specified criteria, ensuring that justice is accessible to those who cannot afford legal representation. Moreover, the State Authority conducts Lok Adalats, including those addressing High Court cases, as a means of expeditiously resolving disputes. In addition to these core functions, it also undertakes preventive and strategic legal aid programs designed to educate and empower individuals about their legal rights, thus preventing and mitigating legal issues.[6]

High Court Legal Services Committees (HCLSCs)

There are also the High Court Legal Services Committees (HCLSCs) which are established under section 8A of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 by each High Court in India to give effect to the policies and directions of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and oversee the delivery of legal aid and assistance in the state. It is headed by the Chief Justice of the High Court and includes other judges, lawyers, and social workers. The functions of these Committees have not been laid down in the Act. Its function are determined by the Regulations made by SLSA.

District Legal Services Authorities

The District Legal Services Authority, established under section 9 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, plays a pivotal role in the legal services framework. This authority comprises the District Judge as its Chairman and other members appointed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice.[7]

The District Authority's primary duty is to execute functions delegated to it by the State Authority, essentially acting as an extension of the State Authority within the district. These delegated functions include coordinating the activities of the Taluk Legal Services Committee and other legal services within the district, organizing Lok Adalats locally, and performing additional functions set by State Authority regulations. This ensures the efficient delivery of legal services at the grassroots level, tailored to the specific needs of the district's population.[8]

In discharging its responsibilities under the Act, the District Authority is expected to collaborate effectively with various governmental and non-governmental institutions, universities, and other entities engaged in promoting legal services for the disadvantaged. [9]

Taluk Legal Services Committee

Additionally, the Act provides for the establishment of Taluk Legal Services Committees to extend legal services even further into local communities. These Committees are constituted by the State Authority for each taluk or mandal or for a group of taluks or mandals. It is headed by a senior Civil Judge operating within the jurisdiction of the Committee who is its ex-officio Chairman. Further, it has members nominated by the State Government in consultation with Chief Justice of the High Court possessing prescribed qualifications and experience as prescribed by the respective State Government.[10]

The functions of such Committees is to - co-ordinate the activities of legal services in the taluk, organize Lok Adalats within the taluk; and perform such other functions as the District Authority may assign to it.[11]


Legal Provision relating to 'Legal Services Authorities'

Eligibility to get free legal services

The categories of individuals listed under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are eligible to receive free legal services. These include:[12]

  1. A Member of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.
  2. A victim of human trafficking or beggar, as mentioned in Article 23 of the Constitution.
  3. A woman or a child.
  4. A person with disability as defined in clause (i) of Section 2 of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  5. A person under circumstances of underserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic, violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster.
  6. An industrial worker
  7. A person 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).
  8. Individuals in receipt of annual income less than the amount mentioned in the following schedule (or any 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 Rs. 5 Lakh, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
  9. Further, some other categories of persons have been included in some States like - HIV affected Persons, senior Citizens, victims of acid attacks, transgender persons and victims of drug abuse.

The Income Ceiling Limit prescribed under Section 12(h) of the Act for availing free legal services in different States.[13]

States/ Union Territories Income Ceiling Limit (Per Annum) Any category other than specified in Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 eligible for legal aid in your State.
Andhra Pradesh Rs. 3,00,000/-
Arunachal Pradesh Rs. 1,00,000/- Transgender
Assam Rs. 3,00,000/-
Bihar Rs. 1,50,000/- (a) a transgender (b) a senior citizen (c) a person infected with HIV or suffering from Cancer of any type (d) a worker of an unorganized sector (e) an acid attack victim
Chhattisgarh Rs. 1,50,000/-
Goa Rs. 3,00,000/-
Gujarat Rs. 1,00,000/- Victims of Mob Lynching and Transgenders
Haryana Rs. 3,00,000/- As per Rule- 19 of the Haryana State Legal Services Authority Rules, 1996, there are 10 categories other than those specified in Section-12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 who are eligible for legal aid in the State of Haryana are as under:-

1. To a person in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (q) of Section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987; or 2. In a test case, the decision of which is likely to affect cases of numerous other persons belonging to the poor and weaker sections of the society; or 3. To a person, in a special case, which for reasons to be recorded in writing is considered otherwise deserving of legal service where the means test is not satisfied, or 4. To a person in the case where the High Court or the Supreme Court provides legal service under any order in that case legal service would be deemed to have been provided by the Authority/Committee in relaxation of all the conditions laid down in this rule, or 5. To a person in case of public interest litigation. 6. To an ex-serviceman, and the families of such persons who have died in action; or 7. To riot victims, and the families of such persons as well as terrorist victims and families of such persons; or 8. To freedom fighters; or 9. Transgender people, or 10. Senior Citizen that is person who is citizen of India and has attained the age of 60 years or above.

Himachal Pradesh Rs. 3,00,000/- Transgender & HIV Positive
Jammu and Kashmir Rs. 1,00,000/-
Jharkhand Rs. 3,00,000/-
Karnataka Rs. 3,00,000/-
Kerala Rs. 300,000/-
Madhya Pradesh Rs. 2,00,000/-
Maharashtra Rs. 3,00,000/-
Manipur Rs. 3,00,000/-
Meghalaya Rs. 3,00,000/-
Mizoram Rs. 25,000/-
Nagaland Rs. 100,000/-
Odisha Rs. 3,00,000/-
Punjab Rs. 3,00,000/-
Rajasthan Rs. 3,00,000/-
Sikkim Rs. 3,00,000/-
Telangana Rs. 3,00,000/-
Tamil Nadu Rs. 3,00,000/-
Tripura Rs. 1,50,000/-
Uttar Pradesh Rs. 3,00,000/-
Uttarakhand Rs. 3,00,000/- 1. Ex-Servicemen

2. Persons from the transgender community 3. Senior Citizens 4. HIV/AID Infected Persons

West Bengal Rs. 1,00,000/-
Andaman and Nicobar Islands Rs. 3,00,000/-
Chandigarh Rs. 3,00,000/-
Dadra & Nagar Haveli Rs. 15,000/-
Daman & Diu Rs. 1,00,000/-
Delhi Rs. 3,00,000/- 1. Senior citizens with an annual income of less than Rs. 4 lakh

2. Transgender with an annual income of less than Rs. 4 lakh 3. Victims of acid attack 4. Persons infected & affected with HIV (AIDS)

Lakshadweep Rs. 3,00,000/-
Puducherry Rs. 1,00,000/-
Ladakh Rs. 1,00,000/-

What encompasses in the free legal Aid Services

The provision of free legal aid includes various forms of support, such as:

a) Representation by an advocate in legal proceedings.

b) Payment of process fees, expenses of witnesses, and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings in appropriate cases.

c) Preparation of pleadings, memo of appeal, and paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.

d) Drafting legal documents, special leave petitions, etc.

e) Supplying certified copies of judgments, orders, evidence notes, and other documents from legal proceedings.

Free Legal Services also include the provision of aid and advice to the beneficiaries to access the benefits under the welfare statutes and schemes framed by the Central Government or the State Government and to ensure access to justice in any other manner.

According to Section 2(c) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, “legal services” includes any service in the conduct of any case or other legal proceeding before any court or other authority or tribunal and the giving of advice on any legal matter[14]

Research that engages with Legal Services Authorities

Hope Beyond Bars? Status Report on Legal Aid for Persons in Custody

This report published by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative examines the challenges that hinder the effectiveness of laws intended to benefit incarcerated individuals. Data collection from jails and courts presented significant difficulties. Data analysis is done region-wise across India and gives significant weight to access to free legal aid for prisoners.

Report On Study of Implementation of National Legal Services in the State of Gujarat

This report, published by the Centre for Social Justice takes note of the level of implementation of the National Legal Services in Gujarat as of 2008. When funds allocated to legal services authorities are mismanaged, it leads to a decline in the quality of legal aid provided. This, in turn, results in dissatisfaction among those who rely on these services. Hence, to check the efficiency this study used a few important parameters: the improper utilisation of funds given to the district and state legal services authorities impacts the quality of service delivery, dissatisfaction in the beneficiaries is because of the low quality of services delivery and monitoring systems for quality management has direct impact on quality of the services delivered.

Prisons, Courts and Legal Aid: Experience of the Fair Trial Program in Maharashtra

This report is part of the Fair Trial Fellowship Program of Project 39 A for providing legal representation to Pune and Nagpur Central Prisons. This report analyzes empirically supported trends to propose improvements to the legal aid system. It confirms long-standing concerns about structural barriers within the criminal justice system and the limitations of state-sponsored legal aid.

The Mediation Gap: Where India Stands and How Far It Must Go:

This article published by Daksh India takes a deeper dive into mediation in India. Mediation is one of the most important alternative resolution methods and the Indian judicial system has tried to incorporate all the methods including mediation as a legitimate method of solving disputes. However, in this article, the authors have recommended some steps that might help in creating a more conducive environment for mediation to work effectively in India. Since mediation is one of the primary methods employed by the Legal Services Authorities, the recommendations apply to them equally. Additionally, the data used for measuring the effectiveness of the current institutions in place has been taken from the websites of legal services authorities.

Access to Justice Survey: Introduction, Methodology, and Findings (2015-16):

This survey conducted by Daksh for the year 2015-16 delves into citizens' access to justice including access to free legal services. One of the main objectives of the Legal Services Authorities is to make access to justice easy by providing free legal services and alternative dispute dispute resolution methods to all and in this report, the authors also evaluate the accessibility in the civil cases through legal services authorities. The survey tries to understand the effectiveness through interviews of current litigants and also tries to determine how social profile affects ease of access.

Role Of Legal Services Authorities In Providing Legal Services: A Study With Reference To The State Of Haryana- A Thesis:

This study is the thesis of Punjab University PhD candidate Sunil Chauhan which examines India's extensive legal aid programme, which stands out for its emphasis on the court and extensive qualifying standards that include almost 80% of the country's population. The structural and functional framework is built on the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 and the National Legal Services Authority's rules. While legal aid functions at various levels, the study focuses on Haryana as a representative state. To find weaknesses and suggest fixes, the study thoroughly examines alternative dispute resolution methods, community outreach programmes, and court-based legal assistance. It provides valuable insights for policymakers, Legal Services Authorities, researchers, and stakeholders interested in th multifaceted legal aid landscape in India.

Functions of ADR in Assam With Special Reference to the National Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 : An Analytical Study:

This paper is the doctoral thesis of Phd student, Milan Khan of Gauhati University and is a comprehensive study that delves into the realm of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the Indian state of Assam. It embarks on an exploration of the historical evolution of ADR practices in India specifically evaluating the effectiveness of Lok Adalats in resolving disputes. In addition to historical insights, the research paper offers a thorough analysis of the statutory provisions related to ADR under the Indian Constitution and various legislations. It discusses the potential reforms needed to enhance ADR procedures and its utilization in different legal domains, such as criminal cases, civil disputes, and family matters. The paper concludes with a detailed examination of the findings derived from the research, highlighting the scope for further investigations in the field of ADR in Assam. It offers conclusions and valuable suggestions for policymakers, legal practitioners, and scholars to enhance the ADR framework in the state and potentially influence ADR practices across India.

The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987- An Analytical and Critical Study of the State of Rajasthan with Special Reference to Neighboring States:

This research paper is the doctoral thesis of PhD student Satish Kumar Meena of Mohan Lala Sukhadia University and is devoted to a thorough examination of Rajasthan's legal system. It aims to investigate different aspects of the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 in this specific state. While Rajasthan continues to be the major emphasis, the study also includes a comparison component by specifically mentioning the neighbouring state of Jharkhand. The study achieves its objective by comparing and contrasting the execution and efficacy of legal aid and services programmes in Rajasthan and Jharkhand. By including Jharkhand in the study, the study gives a wider view on the region's legal services system and identifies areas that may need modification.

A study on assessing management effectiveness of the existing district legal services authorities in few rural regions of Punjab:

This paper is the doctoral thesis of Phd student Neha of the Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology and focuses on assessing the effectiveness of District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) in delivering comprehensive legal services in Barnala and Sangrur districts of Punjab. Data in this report was collected through questionnaires from various stakeholders, such as lawyers, the general public, paralegal volunteers, and legal awareness camp participants. The analysis of this data revealed several problems and limitations in the existing system, leading to suggestions for improvement. In summary, the study examines the challenges in achieving justice for all and evaluates the performance of DLSAs in addressing these issues.

International Experiences

Several countries have established systems that are similar to Legal Services Authorities in India. Countries have institutions which aim to provide alternative dispute resolution methods to ease the burden on formal court systems and promote quicker and cost-effective resolution of disputes. Here are some of the countries that have institutions similar to Legal Services Authorities:

  1. Bangladesh: Bangladesh has a system called "Salish," which provides a forum for parties to settle their disputes through conciliation or mediation.[15]
  2. Malaysia: Malaysia has a system known as "Pusat Mediasi Malaysia" (Malaysian Mediation Centre). It serves as a platform for alternative dispute resolution, offering parties an opportunity to settle their disputes in a non-adversarial manner.
  3. Philippines: The Philippines has a system "Katarungang Pambarangay" (Barangay Justice System), which operates at the grassroots level. Its aim is to settle disputes through mediation and conciliation in the local community.
  4. Indonesia: It has a system called "Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia" (Indonesian National Arbitration Board) which provides arbitration services for the resolution of commercial disputes outside of the formal courts.
  5. Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka has the "Gramaraka Niladhari" system, which operates at the village level and focuses on resolving minor civil disputes within the local community.[16]


  1. Legal Services Authorities Act 1987
  2. ‘National Legal Services Authority (NALSA): Department of Justice: India’ (Department of Justice | India) <> accessed 7 June 2024
  3. ‘About Us’ (National Legal Services Authority!, 8 January 2019) <,for%20amicable%20settlement%20of%20disputes> accessed 7 June 2024
  4. The National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations 2010, s 2(e)
  5. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 6
  6. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 7
  7. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 9
  8. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 10
  9. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 11
  10. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 11A
  11. The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, s 11B
  12. (National Legal Services Authority) <> accessed 7 June 2024
  13. Manual for District Legal Services Authorities 2023
  14. (National Legal Services Authority) <> accessed 7 June 2024
  15. Kamal Siddiqui, 'In Quest of Justice at the Grass Roots', Journal of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Vol. 43, No.1, 1998; Fazlul Huq, Towards' a Local Justice System for the Poor, Dhaka, 1998.
  16. ‘Grama Niladhari: Grassroots Go-between State and Common Man (The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka) <> accessed 7 June 2024
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