The earliest Legal Aid movement was started in the year 1851 when there was an enactment introduced in France for providing legal assistance to the indigent. In Britain the effort of the state to provide legal services to the poor and needy goes back to 1944, when lord chancellor, Viscount Simon appointed the Rushcliffe Committee headed by Lord Rushcliffe to enquire about the existing facilities in England and Wales for giving legal aid advice to the poor.  This committee also made the desirable recommendations ensuring that the persons in need of the legal advice are provided the same by the state. The recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee were submitted to British Parliament, which resulted in the enactment of Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949.
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In 1945, the Rushcliffe Committee report was brought to the attention of the Government of India. The credit for drawing the attention of the government of India to this important question goes to the Bombay Legal Aid Society who invited the attention of the Government of India to the report of the Rushcliffe Committee. The Bombay Legal Aid Society in their letter  suggested the appointment of a similar committee in India to examine the problem of Legal Aid. In 1946, the provincial government was of the opinion that the provisions for the grant of legal aid in civil cases were sufficient but the same for the criminal cases needed to be liberalized. After the correspondence between the Government of India and the Provincial Government the resolution was passed in the Bombay Legislative Council and the Bombay State Assembly. The Government of Bombay appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice NH Bhagwati  to consider the question of grant of legal aid in civil and criminal proceedings to poor persons, persons of limited means and the persons of backward classes to make justice easily accessible to these persons. The committee threw responsibility on State to provide free legal aid for those who could not have access to the Courts of Law due to scarcity of means and guidance. The committee also recommended a four-tier  machinery for giving legal aid. These recommendations could not be implemented. In the same year (1949), the Government of West Bengal also set up a committee on ‘Legal Aid and Legal Advice’ under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Trevor Harries  . The committee recommended to give legal assistance to the poor. The report of the committee could not be implemented due to lack of requisite funds. Since 1952, the Government of India also started addressing to the question of legal aid for the poor in various conferences of Law Ministers and Law Commissions. The first law commission, 1958 in its fourteenth report  presented a detailed thought of legal aid with a strong plea to implement the Bhagwati and Harries reports.
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