Legal Aid Assistance: How Far It Worked During Pandemic?


The Covid-19 has changed the entire world into a new one which no one expected before. Most of the countries around the world declared lockdown in their respective countries which led to the increase of crimes at the domestic level. People are in a deficit of food and other necessities due to loss of jobs. To tackle this and other kinds of crimes, various legal aid institutions are working more time to provide effective legal assistance during pandemic days. The legal aid institutions meet needy people at the right time.


When Covid-19 broke out in India, no one expected it will leave a severe impact in the country. It almost affected the daily living of the people and re-shaped their routines. Many started doing work from the home basis, while several other people lost their job and became unemployed. In some companies, they laid off their employees. The most affected part is the vulnerable set of people and the daily wagers because their daily food is based on the work that they do on a particular day. Almost the nation was completely shut down and they could find no work and no one was providing them with any sort of work.

Taking care of them is the main responsibility of the Government. Working along with them, NALSA and several state and district legal service authorities extended their support towards these set of people. It has been stated that more than 90 lakh people have been facilitated by the Legal Services Authorities in accessing food, medicine, shelter and other likewise basic requirements. In addition, they have extended their assistance to migrant workers who migrated to their state facing several insecurities.

Instances of legal aid provided by various state legal aid institutions are:

1. Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority– Conducted 354 awareness camps on coronavirus across Jammu and Kashmir and 60 camps in the Union territory of Ladakh, they also coordinate with the municipal corporations by sanitizing the areas.

2. Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority– Provided groceries and medical help for 30 aged farmers in Pattukottai taluk of Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu, also they provided food to 20 narikurava families at Slavakkam in Chengalpattu district and to 25 employees of a circus at Thottiyam in Trichy. They gave two ventilators to a government hospital in Tiruvallur district with the help of a non-governmental organization.

3. Delhi State Legal Services Authority– Collaborated with and launched a new app named Vidhik Sewa App which serves as a Covid-19 helpline and they provide many crucial services such as providing of food, shelter, clothes, medicines, sanitary napkins and other likewise services.


In India, prisons are very congested. The effective mode prescribed to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus is social distancing from others. Having better hygienic facilities and sanitation is also essential to break the chain of Covid-19. However, the state of prisons in India is pathetic. Being in a congested area, it is very hard for the inmates of the prison to maintain social distancing from the fellow inmates.

Coming to the sanitation and hygienic facilities, they are in a very poor state, the inmates share common toilets by which the virus can be spread rapidly. Keeping in mind all these issues faced by the inmates of the prison during the pandemic and their health and life is also a priority, NALSA moved the issue before the Apex Court. NALSA convinced the Supreme Court that a certain amount of prisoners can be released for their betterment and others.

NALSA stated that around 42,529 under trial prisoners and in addition to 16,391 convicts were released on parole to de-congest the prison amid the Covid-19 days. The report also stated that 243 under-trial prisoners were granted bail along with 9,558 persons who were in remand had been given legal representation throughout the country as a safety measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) released a report about a hike in domestic violence during a pandemic, and the report was collected through 28 State Legal Services. Another report was made by the National Commission for Women which stated that the Commission has registered a total of 587 domestic violence complaints within the time period of March 23 (the date of declaring lockdown) to April 16 and the report mainly relied on complaints received from helpline numbers and posts.

The need to control the hike on the domestic violence against women and children was demanded by the general public, and the legal aid authorities strived to put forward a mechanism for the same. NALSA chief and the Senior Most Supreme Court Judge, Justice N V Ramana opened about this issue and stated that one of the critical areas which came to our notice was the rising incidents of violence within the family itself, and we also saw increasing instances of child abuse and when the victims cannot reach us, it is imperative for us to reach them. The mechanism which has been formulated is NALSA in collaboration with state and district legal services authorities and establishing one-stop centres.


The main issue for a man during these pandemic days is his salary. Lots of uncertainties in receiving their monthly salaries were faced by the common man. Some lost their job which led to no salary. While some others got their salary after deduction of a certain amount from their usual monthly salary. In most of the Indian household, a month run by the monthly salary of the breadwinner of the family. When he gets no salary or deducted salary, there arises chaos in the family to meet the daily needs. In this regard, grievances related to denial of salary or wages by the employers are addressed by the Legal Service Institutions by providing adequate legal assistance to them.

The Legal Service Institutions provides various sets of programmes for setting out the goals of the institutions. The implementation of such programmes during Covid-19 days is pivotal. In this regard, NALSA has initiated various webinars for the State and District Legal Services Authorities to find solutions to the challenges being faced in the implementation of the legal aid programmes during the pandemic. In addition, these institutions are also conducting several training programs for Panel Lawyers, Para Legal Volunteers through digital platforms as they bridge the gap between the needy people and government authorities. In this way, the Legal Service Institutions of the States and the Districts works hard to reach out to the people who are actually in need of the legal assistance during global pandemic days.


Like any programmes or action plans, legal aid is also provided with some objectives. The pandemic was the one effective period for the legal aid authorities to fulfill their objectives. The steps by which the legal aid authorities achieved their certain objectives during a pandemic are:

1. Providing legal awareness-

Legal awareness has been given by the legal aid authorities relating to legal knowledge related to a pandemic and its laws. Legal aid authorities educated the people regarding what exactly means a pandemic, why are pandemic declared by the Government? They also taught about the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 and why several states have invoked this century-old Act to curb the menace of Covid-19. In addition, awareness relating to the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 and its execution at National, State and District levels. The other related provisions like Section 144 and Section 271 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were also explained by the legal aid authorities during a pandemic.

2. Protection of human rights-

The vulnerable groups were denied of their human rights during a pandemic. Instances of forcing migrant workers to leave from their states were seen almost throughout the country most particularly at South India. Their right to live in the place where they wish to live and right to occupation was taken away from them. They had no wages with them, which led to starvation in their families. Even after the migrant workers reached their home town, they could find no work to run their families. In such a situation, the legal aid authorities provided them with services to run their families. They supported them financially and mentally.

3. Protection of constitutional and other legal rights-

It is of no doubt that several constitutional rights were violated to people who live below the poverty line and are marginalized at Covid-19 days. Right to life under Article 21 is considered as a most pivotal fundamental right includes right to live with dignity. Article 21 is so wider that includes so many rights within it. Certain rights such as the right to health, right to food, right to privacy, right to livelihood and right to education have been disrupted due to Covid-19. But people were deprived to live with dignity during the lockdown. Several people were shut in their homes thus restricting their right to movement. Though these rights were deprived to some set of people, several legal aid authorities ensured that these rights are not deprived of them. They took adequate measures to protect these fundamental rights by providing the necessities to needy people.

4. Providing paralegal aid-

Not only the National legal services authorities and the State legal service authorities provided the essential legal aid and assistance during Covid-19. Along with them, several Non-Governmental organizations, private entities and individuals also assisted in providing legal aid. Though these people did not have sufficient legal knowledge, they still tried their best in providing sufficient legal aid to those who were in need of the same.

5. Ensuring access to justice-

Since the court complex was closed, only emergency cases were tried initially. And when the restrictions were relaxed, certain courts started working. The hard times is that people were not able to access justice during these days because it is widely said justice delayed is justice denied. The legal aid authorities helped to a certain extent that justice has not been denied to any people. In this regard, the legal aid authorities have successfully achieved their objectives at hard times like Covid-19. They are one among the unsung heroes of the Covid-19 who worked a lot from behind the scenes for the people who became vulnerable due to Covid-19.

They also have to get the adequate recognition for the services done by them, only then people will get more trust in these authorities and they will become aware that these authorities are working to provide legal aid for them. No media covered the legal assistance provided by the legal aid authorities as they were busy in circulating the unnecessary news at times thereby hindering the growth of these authorities. The situation has to be changed and almost all the population of the country who are eligible to get legal aid has to get access to it. Till then, the objectives of the legal aid authorities are not completely achievable.


Several authorities, organizations and even individuals extended their warm support to the vulnerable people during a pandemic. Like them, NALSA along with several legal aid authorities of the States and Union territories strived to meet the needs of the people who are in need of legal assistance. In fact, they are providing legal assistance in every area leaving behind nothing which is really appreciable. They are helping pregnant women, providing basic necessities, making people aware of the legal rights, making people avail of the benefits and programmes by the Union Governments or respective State governments for the people during Covid-19. It is of no doubt that the Legal Aid Institutions acts as the friend in need is a friend indeed at the right time.

About Authors – This article is authored by Aayush Akar and Bini. R. A. Aayush Akar, third-year law student pursuing BA.LLB (Hons) from National Law University Odisha. Bini. R.A is a fifth-year law student of School of Excellence in law, Chennai.

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