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This article is written by Srushti Joshi of Student of Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


India’s Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 is a key piece of legislation that aims to ensure that everyone in society, especially those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, has equal access to the justice system. The post-independence transformation of the Indian legal system, driven by constitutional principles of equality and justice, is examined in this historical overview. The colonial era was characterized by complexity and inaccessibility. This important piece of legislation was made possible by the rise of the legal aid movement in the 1960s and 1970s as well as significant socioeconomic changes in the 1980s. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987’s goals are wide-ranging, with a focus on giving underserved and vulnerable groups access to free legal counsel, raising legal literacy among the general public, and speeding up the resolution of disputes through Lok Adalats. The Act also establishes eligibility requirements for recipients of legal aid and describes the organizational structure of legal services authorities at the federal, state, district, and local levels. Legal aid attorneys are required to offer their services skilfully and uncompensated. The Act also includes provisions for amending other relevant laws, financial matters, and penalties for violations. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has had a significant impact on alternative dispute resolution because it creates Lok Adalats as forums for the peaceful resolution of disputes, advancing the cause of effective and accessible justice. To ensure that its benefits reach the intended beneficiaries, the Act must increase awareness and outreach, which is just one of many difficulties it faces. Legal services authorities must be given sufficient funding and resources to carry out their duties. To achieve the Act’s objectives of equitable access to justice for all, these issues must be resolved. its historical context, goals, clauses, influence on alternative dispute resolution, difficulties, and ongoing applicability in the quest for fair justice for all facets of Indian society.


Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, Access to Justice. Legal Aid Movement, Lok Adalats.


In India, the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 marked a significant step toward the realization of justice as a fundamental right for all people, regardless of background or circumstance. Legal aid is now available to those who were previously underserved and marginalized thanks to this legislation, which is grounded in the historical development of India’s legal system. To fully appreciate the significance and implications of this important piece of legislation, it is crucial to comprehend the historical context and the necessity for such a legal framework. The purpose of this introduction is to prepare the reader for a thorough examination of the Legal Services Authorities Act.


An important piece of legislation in India, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, aims to ensure that everyone has access to justice and to provide legal aid, especially for those who are economically or socially disadvantaged. We must examine the historical setting and the need for such legislation if we are to comprehend the background and history of this legal system.

Pre-Independence Period: India had a colonial legal system that it inherited from British rule before the country attained independence in 1947. The majority of the population, especially the poor and marginalized, found this system to be frequently complicated, expensive, and inaccessible.

Post-Independence: India’s new Constitution, which was adopted after the country attained independence, enshrined fundamental rights, including the right to equality before the law and equal protection under the law (Article 14). These ideas provided the framework for legal reforms.

Legal Aid Movement: In India, the legal aid movement gained traction in the 1960s and 1970s. Legal experts, activists, and judges realized the importance of giving those who couldn’t afford it access to the justice system. Various legal aid initiatives were launched by the government, legal professionals, and nonprofit groups.

Committee on Legal Aid: To examine the current legal aid programs and suggest improvements, the government established the Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS) in 1973. The CILAS report emphasized the need for comprehensive legal aid legislation and emphasized the inadequacy of current efforts.[1]

Background of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987

A comprehensive legal aid law and the establishment of a national legal aid agency were recommended in the 42nd Law Commission Report of India, which was published in 1971

PILs and Access to Justice: As PILs became more prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, issues relating to access to justice and the rights of socially and economically disadvantaged groups came to the fore in legal discussion. The judiciary actively participated in resolving these problems.

Socio-economic Changes: Economic liberalization and heightened awareness of fundamental rights were just two examples of the significant socio-economic changes that took place in India during the 1980s. These modifications demonstrated the requirement for a legal framework to guarantee that these rights were available to everyone.


The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987[2] lays out a thorough framework with many different goals in an effort to promote equal access to justice for all societal groups in India. This important piece of legislation emphasizes the fundamental right to access justice by making sure that free legal services are available to those who cannot afford them. Reaching out to marginalized and underprivileged communities, women, and other vulnerable groups is given a lot of priority, and it gives them the support they need to pursue legal remedies. The Act also promotes the creation of Lok Adalats to speed up the resolution of disputes,[3] raises public awareness of the law, and defend the rights of the underprivileged. Additionally, it gives legal services authorities the authority to provide assistance both before and during court cases. The Act emphasizes the value of legal aid, public education, and alternative dispute resolution processes in realizing the goal of making justice accessible and equitable for all.


The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which establishes the framework for the delivery of legal services in India, is divided into a number of sections and chapters. The following summarizes its structure: The Act’s preamble, which emphasizes equal justice and access to legal services, sets forth its goals and purposes at the outset.[4]

Preliminary Chapter I (Sections 1-2): The Act’s succinct title and definitions of key terms can be found in this chapter.

Sections 3-6 of Chapter II, “Establishment of Legal Services Authorities,” The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs), District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs), and Taluk Legal Services Committees (TLSCs) are all discussed in this chapter. It details their make-up, responsibilities, and roles.

Chapter III – Authorities and Their Purposes (Sections 7–10): The roles and authority of various legal services authorities are outlined in this chapter. They play a key role in organizing Lok Adalats, distributing legal awareness materials, and more.

Sections 11–20 of Chapter IV, “Grant of Legal Aid,” state: The eligibility requirements for those requesting legal aid, the process for approving it, and the duties of legal aid attorneys are described in this chapter.

Chapter V (Sections 19–22): The establishment, makeup, and legal status of Lok Adalats—alternative dispute resolution forums—are covered in this chapter. It also describes how they work and what powers they have.

Finance, accounts, and audit are covered in Chapter VI (Sections 23–30). This chapter covers the budgeting, accounting, and auditing aspects of the financial operations of legal services authorities.

The Act is covered by various provisions in Chapter VII, which is titled “Miscellaneous” (Sections 31–40). These provisions include ones that protect actions taken in good faith, prohibit lawyers from charging for legal services provided in accordance with the Act, and more. Sections 41-4 of Chapter VIII, “Penalties,” list the punishments for various Act violations, with many more provisions [5]


The Act specifies the make-up of these authorities, including the appointment of the Chief Justice of the High Court as the Patron-in-Chief of NALSA and the Chief Justice of the High Court as the Patron of SLSAs, as well as other members representing the judiciary, legal professionals, and social workers.

Services of the Legal Sector Legal services authorities’ main duty is to offer qualified people free legal counsel in a professional manner. They are responsible for setting up Lok Adalats (people’s courts) to promote peaceful dispute resolution, raising public awareness of the law, and facilitation Legal Aid Eligibility: The Act specifies the requirements for people to qualify for legal aid. It includes people from economically disadvantaged groups, women, kids, people from Scheduled Castes and Tribes, trafficking victims, people with disabilities, and more. The Act places a strong emphasis on the need to offer legal aid to those who cannot afford legal representation. Role of Legal Aid Attorneys: The Act specifies the obligations placed on legal aid attorneys who are selected by the government. They must diligently and successfully provide legal aid to those who qualify. In such circumstances, the Act forbids them from charging for their services. Finances and Funding: The Act outlines the financial facets of the legal services authorities, including the duty of the state to provide the necessary funds and resources.[6]

Penalties for Violations: The Act lays out punishments for a number of offenses, including the willful neglect of duty on the part of legal aid attorneys and the provision of false information in order to obtain legal aid.

In order to bring certain other laws into compliance with the provisions of this Act, the Act contains provisions for their amendment. Rules: The Act gives the relevant government the authority to enact regulations to carry out its provisions.[7]


Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in India has been significantly impacted by the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987. The Act’s main objective of delivering effective and accessible justice to everyone has been accomplished in large part thanks to ADR mechanisms like Lok Adalats. Here, we examine how the Act affects ADR:[8]

Promotion of Lok Adalats: The establishment and promotion of Lok Adalats, which are people’s courts intended to settle disputes amicably, are strongly stressed by the Act. These forums now form a crucial part of the Indian legal system, providing a more rapid and affordable option to traditional court litigation. The provisions of the Act give legal services authorities the authority to plan and support Lok Adalats in order to advance ADR.

Speedy Dispute Resolution: Lok Adalats work to expedite the resolution of disputes. They are empowered to resolve disputes through negotiation or conciliation, relieving pressure off the traditional judicial system. The Act promotes the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques before resorting to drawn-out court battles, which helps cases be resolved quickly.

Accessibility to Vulnerable Groups: One of the Act’s main goals is to increase the accessibility of justice for disadvantaged and marginalized groups. The Act guarantees that these groups can seek legal redress without the formal complexities and costs frequently associated with conventional litigation by promoting ADR through Lok Adalats.

Legal services organizations are required by the Act to educate the public about the law and their legal rights. Citizens are better informed about their options for resolving disputes outside of traditional courts thanks to this awareness, which also extends to ADR mechanisms like Lok Adalats

Case Backlog Reduction: The Act’s numerous ADR mechanisms, such as Lok Adalats, have made a significant dent in the case backlog in Indian courts. This lessens the burden on the formal judicial system and frees it up to concentrate on more complicated cases while still giving people access to timely ADR.


Outreach and Awareness: One of the main issues is that not enough people are aware of the Act and its provisions, particularly in rural and remote areas. Many people who qualify for free legal aid are still unaware of their rights or the existence of organizations that provide legal services. To close this gap, efficient outreach programs and awareness campaigns are required.

Resource Constraints: Legal services authorities must have enough money and resources to operate. Many of these agencies have resource limitations, which can make it difficult for them to offer high-quality legal aid services. For the Act to continue to be effective, it is essential to maintain a steady flow of funds and resources.


In India, the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 serves as a ray of hope for those who are seeking justice for all, particularly those who are socially or economically disadvantaged. It represents a significant change in the legal system, motivated by a dedication to justice, equality, and accessibility. The Indian legal system has been significantly impacted by this legislative framework, which is grounded in historical development and constitutional principles, especially in the area of alternative dispute resolution. The Act has significantly accelerated dispute resolution, lightened the load on traditional courts, and increased access to justice for a wider range of society through the promotion of mechanisms like Lok Adalats. It has enabled vulnerable and marginalized groups to assert their rights and seek redress without being hindered by the high costs and complexity of the legal system.

The Act does have some difficulties, as we have seen, though. These include knowledge gaps, resource shortages, the standard of legal aid, and geographic inequalities. For the Act’s lofty objectives to be fully achieved, these difficulties must be resolved. To close these gaps and make the promise of equal access to justice a reality for every Indian citizen, legal authorities, civil society, and policymakers must work together. The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 is a reminder of the enduring significance of legal reforms in a rapidly changing world where the need for justice endures. It emphasizes the function of the legal system in defending the rights of the oppressed and ensuring that the ideals of justice are not just abstract concepts but actualized realities.

As India continues to progress, the Act’s legacy persists, reminding us that the pursuit of justice is an ongoing journey, and it is a journey worth undertaking. By addressing the challenges and building upon the Act’s strengths, India can move closer to a future where justice truly knows no economic or social boundaries, where the law is a shield for the vulnerable, and where the principles of equality and fairness prevail in the corridors of justice.

[1] Sarah Patel, “PILs and Access to Justice: A Turning Point in Indian Legal History,” India Today, March 2018

[2] Chandra, V. (2021). The Impact of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 on Access to Justice in India. India Law Review, 14(1), 1-25.

[3] Banerjee, S. (2019). The Role of Lok Adalats in Promoting Access to Justice in India. Journal of Alternative Dispute Resolution, 15(1), 1-18.

[4] Legal Aid in India: The Past and the Future, Arvind Narrain Journal of the Indian Law Institute, Vol. 44, No. 4 (2002)

[5] Legal Aid and Lok Adalats in India: A Critical Appraisal N.K. Jain Journal of the Indian Law Institute, Vol. 46, No. 3 (2004)

[6] Challenges and Opportunities for ADR in India: The Way Forward by Dr. R.K. Mishra (Journal of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2023).

[7] The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987: A Critical Analysis by Dr. S.P. Singh (Central Law Publications, 2022).

[8] The Role of Lok Adalats in Alternative Dispute Resolution by Dr. Prashant Kumar (Indian Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2023)


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