Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees Equality before Law and lays down: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
The apex court in Veena Seth v. State of Bihar , (1982) 2 SCC 583, 586, extended the reach of the Rule of Law to the poor and the downtrodden, the ignorant and the illiterate, who constitute the large bulk of humanity in India, when it ruled that the Rule of Law does not exist merely for those who have the means to fight for their rights.
The credit for this pro-active approach goes to Justice P N Bhagwati. According to him Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a litigation, which is intended not for the benefit of one individual but for the benefit of a class of persons, who are either victims of exploitation or oppression but can not come to court because of their ignorance, poverty and destitution.
There is no dearth of precedents where the courts in India provided solace and relief to the large number of citizens by entertaining PIL and even by accepting letters as writ. People have faith in judiciary and prefer to approach the courts for redressal of their grievances but due to lack of funds and legal knowledge, do not get access to court. To address this nightmarish situation, there arose the need of providing free legal aid and services to millions of needy and downtrodden people in the society.
In Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar , AIR 1979 SC 1369 the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed: "At present, free legal aid or service is not only a statutory but also a fundamental right of citizens." But the problem is that despite of 'Legal Aid' being declared a fundamental right, the masses are not aware of this privilege and due to their ignorance can not discover this 'hidden' treasure for their benefit.
To address this uneasy situation, socially pro-active judicial officer, Dr. Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, Additional District & Sessions Judge, Delhi, came forward bestowing on the countrymen the gift in the shape of a book: The Legal Services Authorities Act, highlighting the Rules, Regulations, Schemes, State Laws and Proformas.
Published by the Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd, the book is laid out section-wise and appended with concise and crisp comments to enable the reader grasp the basic nuances of relevant sections. To enhance its utility, State-wise Legal Services Authority Rules, have been provided, with the view to provide clear understanding of the rules and guidelines pertaining to his domicile.
The preface of the book has been written by Hon'ble Justice T.S. Thakur, Judge Supreme Court of India. Justice Thakur in the foreward writes, " Economic disparity between those locked in a legal battle was often much too apparent to be ignored, the weaker of the two often finding himself at a disadvantage, while judiciary manning the adjudicatory mechanism remained a helpless observer. The Parliament intervened before long to remove this deficit and to set the things right. It brought a legislation in the form of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which infused new life in to a litigant disabled by penury from pursuing his cause for justice whether against the mighty State or a resourceful private individual. Dr. Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, who is a senior judicial officer in Delhi, has done a commendable job in bringing forth in this handy manual the basic nuances of the Legal Services Authorities Act."
Dr. Sangita Dhingra Sehgal completed her masters degree in Public Administration from Panjab University and LL.B. from Delhi University. She topped the Delhi Judicial Services Examination in 1984. Dr. Sehgal is currently a Special Judge ( Anti- corruption branch ) at Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi. There is an elaborate list of high profile cases that Sangita Dhingra Sehgal has dealt with in her 27 year long career. She has heard cases that hogged news headlines such as Hawala case, the match-fixing scandal and the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case, etc.