The constitution promotes equal justice to all its citizens. Article 14 of the Constitution provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before Law or equal protection of laws within territory of India. Article-38 further envisages that the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, economic and political shall inform all institutions of national life. In spite of such constitutional promise the poor, illiterate, weaker sections in our country suffer day in and out in their struggle for survival. They are unable to approach the appropriate courts of law on account of their poverty and ignorance of their legal rights even though they suffer injustice. In such situation they feel that equality and freedom are the rights which are to be enjoyed by the privileged and few. Keeping in view the above scenario of the society the Law Commission of India in its 14 th Report (1958) observed as follows:
“Equality before the law necessarily involves the concept that all the parties to a proceeding in which justice is sought must have an equal opportunity of access to the court and of presenting their cases to the court. But the access to the courts is by law made dependent upon the payment of court fees, and the assistance of skilled lawyers is in most cases necessary for the proper presentation of a party’s case in a court of law. In so far as a person unable to obtain access to a court of law for having his wrongs redressed or for defending himself against a criminal charge, justice becomes unequal and laws which are meant for his protection have no meaning and to that extent fail in their purpose.
Unless some provision is made for assisting the poor man to pay court-fee and lawyer’s fees and other incidental costs of litigation, he is denied equality in the opportunity to seek justice”.
In order to over come such situation and to provide access to justice for all the Parliament by its 42nd Amendment incorporated Article 39-A in the Constitution which directed Government for providing equal justice and free Legal Aid to indigent persons who are unable to fight for justice by reason of economic and other disabilities.
“Article 39-A. 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 economic or other disabilities.”
Accordingly the State Government vide Law Department Notification No. 8010/L dated 5.5.1981 introduced Orissa State Legal Aid and Advice Scheme under Orissa State Legal Aid and Advice Programme and constituted Orissa Legal Aid and Advice Board for providing free legal Services to the Weaker Sections of the Community. The Parliament further enacted the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 (Act No.39 of 1997) which isbasically aimed to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities and to organize Lok Adalat to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunities.
The Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 was amended by Act No.59/94 and finally came into force on 9th November, 1995 . Further this Act was amended by Act No. 37/02 by which ChapterVI-A was inserted for pre-litigation, Conciliation and Settlement.
With the enactment of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 the erstwhile Orissa State Legal Aid Advice Board was dissolved vide gazette Notification No.115 dated 1.2.1997.
The State Legal Services Authority has been constituted by the State Government in the Law Department Notification No. 15664/LAP dated 23.9.96. The present Executive Chairman, Hon’ble Shri Justice B.P.Das, Judge, Orissa High Court has assumed the office as such on 5.4.2010 vide Govt. of Odisha Law Department Notification published in the Odisha Gazette vide S.R.O. No.110/10 dated 5.4.2010.