• The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC) was established under Section 3A of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Its primary objective is to offer “free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society” in cases under the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.
  • Section 3A mandates that the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) forms this committee.
  • The SCLSC comprises a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairman, alongside other members with specified qualifications and experience.
  • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) nominates both the chairman and other members, and also appoints the Secretary of the Committee.


Constitutional Basis for Legal Services:

  • Article 39A of the Indian Constitution emphasizes that the State must ensure the legal system promotes justice on an equal opportunity basis and must provide free legal aid to prevent justice from being denied due to economic or other disabilities.
  • Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 22(1) (right to be informed of grounds for arrest) reinforce the State’s obligation to uphold equality before the law and ensure justice is accessible to all.

Historical Development:

  • Although the idea of a legal assistance system emerged in the 1950s, significant progress was made in 1980 when a national committee, chaired by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, was formed to oversee legal aid activities in India.
  • The Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS) played a crucial role in monitoring and promoting legal aid across the country.

Mechanisms for Providing Legal Services:

  • The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 provided a statutory foundation for legal aid programs, aiming to extend free and competent legal services to eligible groups, including women, children, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, economically weaker sections, industrial workers, disabled persons, and others.
  • The SCLSC, under the leadership of chairperson Justice B.R. Gavai and nine members nominated by the CJI, is empowered to appoint necessary officers and employees to fulfill its mandate, in consultation with the CJI.


  • The enactment of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, marked a significant milestone in institutionalizing legal aid in India. It strives to ensure that justice is not denied due to economic or social disadvantages.
  • The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee plays a pivotal role in this framework, ensuring that the weaker sections of society have access to competent legal representation and justice. Through its efforts, the SCLSC upholds the constitutional vision of justice for all, reinforcing the principles of equality and fairness in the Indian legal system.
Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 31, 2024