In a welfare state it is the obligation of the state to ensure its citizens justice according to law. Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides 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. By adding this article to the Constitution of India in 1974, the State had taken upon itself the responsibility to provide legal aid to poor litigants.
The Government of India had started addressing the question of legal aid for the poor in various conferences of Law ministers and law commissions from as early as 1952. The Law Commission of India, in its 14th report, had considered this question and made one of the recommendations stating Free legal aid to the poor and persons with limited means is a service which a modern state owes to its citizens. The State must, therefore, accept this obligation and make available funds providing legal aid to poor persons and people with limited means. The report was submitted on 26th of September,1958. This report did not have much impact. But in 1960, some guidelines were drawn by the Government for legal aid schemes. In 1980, Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Scheme( CILAS ) was constituted at the national level under the chairmanship of Honble Justice P.N. Bhagwati, the then Judge of the Supreme Court of India, to oversee and supervise legal aid programmes throughout the country.
To implement the directive principles of state policy under Article 39A of our Constitution, the Government of Bihar enacted Bihar State Weaker Section Legal Aid Act 1983 where-under there was a provision for Legal Aid Board. Accordingly, Bihar State Legal Aid Board was constituted and His Lordship Honble Mr. Justice C.N. Tiwari, Judge of High Court of judicature at Patna, assumed the office as Executive Chairman of Bihar State Legal Aid Board. The first meeting of this Board could be held only on 15.11.90 under the chairmanship of Honble Mr. Justice S.B.Sanyal. A resolution was passed to establish the official headquarters of the Board and to sanction and create posts in the offices of the Legal Aid Committee of the High Court, districts and sud-divisions. The second meeting of the Board was held on 9.10.91 under the chairmanship of Honble Law Minister Shree Ram Naresh Prasad. In that meeting, the policy decision was made to take assistance of the DMs, DLAC and PROs for legal awareness programmes.
In the mean time, upon the review of the working of CILAS, it was felt that due to non-statutory status of the Board, it was difficult to achieve the aim and object of the CILAS. To achieve the aim, it was felt that it would be desirable to constitute statutory legal services authorities at national, state, district and taluka level. In 1987, Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted to give a statutory base to legal aid programmes throughout the country on a uniform pattern. This act was finally enforced on 9th November 1995 after certain amendments. A nationwide network was envisaged under the Act for providing legal aid and assistance.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is the apex body constituted under the provision of the Act to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available and to frame effective and economical schemes for Legal Services. It also disburses funds and grants to SLSAs and NGOs for implementing Legal Aid schemes and programmes.
To carry out the provisions of Legal Services Authorities Act,1987, the Bihar Government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Patna, made the Bihar State Legal Services Authority Rules,1996. After notification of the Rules, the Government of Bihar abolished the Bihar Legal Aid Board and Bihar State Legal Services Authority was constituted on 29.11.1997 Honble Mr.Justice Aftab Alam took over the office as the Executive Chairman of BSLSA. The First member Secretary of the BSLSA, Shri B.K. Thakur joined on 11.3.1998. Later on in the same year, Bihar State Legal Services Authority Regulations,1998 was framed and came into force on 15th March 2001. Patna High Court Legal Services Committee and Committee for Ranchi Bench were set up on 12-1-99. District legal services authorities were constituted for the first time on 30-11-99 vide notification no. 5282 of BSLSA dated 30-11-99.After completion of all formalities for the constitution of SLSA and DLSAs, System started taking shape. Bihar State Legal Services Authority started holding meetings regarding different topics and subjects of public benefits and interests like legal aid to the poor and the needy, prisoners condition in the jails of Bihar, etc.