Good Quality Free Legal Aid in India a Distant Dream

IJRAR May 2020, Volume 7, Issue 2

9 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2021

Hrishikesh Jaiswal

National Law Institute University (NLIU)

Date Written: 2020

Free Legal Aid is a professional legal service provided free or at minimal cost to deprived persons who need help. It is very important to maintain rule of law and constancy in society. The aim of this article is to analyze the problem of lack of education, poverty, and economic and lack of awareness among the underprivileged groups and whether the free legal services are appropriately delivering to the needy or not. The major concern is internal obstacles like lack of knowledge of the law, incompetence in dealing with the cases, corruption, immorality, etc. It is essential that government must take the necessary steps to ensure legal aid services to needy sections are executed properly and encourage lawyers to serve the poor. Legal Aid is not bounty it is the obligation of state and legal right of citizens, hence it should be such that it safeguards the Constitutional pledge of equal justice to the inferior and needy section of society. The present paper studies the constitutional and statutory provision for legal aid. The paper deals with the study of the right to legal aid as a social right, various provisions of legal aid, and the snags of the practical execution of the right to free legal aid.

Keywords: Free Legal Aid, Legal Aid Counsel, Rule of Law, Lok Adalat, NALSA

Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation

Hrishikesh Jaiswal (Contact Author)

National law institute university (nliu) ( email ).

Kerwa Dam Road Bangalore, 560001, Madhya Pradesh India

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This research paper is based on the empirical research on the impact of competency and commitment of legal aid counsels on legal aid system in Delhi. The said Empirical Research was conducted under auspices of the UGC Research Award in Law 2014 Research Project. The Research paper is a reflection of the evaluation of competency and commitment of legal aid counsels by various stakeholders of legal aid services such as beneficiaries, judicial officers dealt with legal aid cases, and regulators of legal aid services in 11 Districts Courts in Delhi and Delhi High Court.

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research paper on legal aid in india

Legal Aid In India

Since independence, the percentage of people in India who can afford a good lifestyle has been increasing steadily, while the percentage of people under the poverty line has decreased considerably. This change can undeniably be linked as a direct or indirect consequence of the policies of the government for upliftment of the poor people. Yet many people still have not been able to reap the benefits of these policies and provisions and the associated economic growth. This has resulted in the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. As such, the poorer sections of the society feels ostracized and face various social injustices. Compounding their problems, it is seen that they dont have anyone to represent them before the court to face judicial proceedings and thus, are deprived of justice. When the literate, affluent and urban sections of our population tend to escape and avoid taking the help of the law due to complexity of judicial proceedings, how can one expect the rural and backward masses to see the system of courts and judges as a tool of providing justice? Although all problems cannot be solved to the core, nonetheless our Constitution as well as legislations provides a solution for the poorer and needy sections of the society, who do not have the means to avail legal services, by providing them with free legal assistance. This free legal assistance is called legal aid. The constitution of Indian provides under Article 39-A that State, shall secure the operation of the legal system 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 constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and section of the society. Whatever standards a man chooses to set for himself be they religious, moral, social or purely rational in origin, it is the law which prescribes and governs his right and duties towards the other member of the community. This somewhat arbitrary collection of principles he has very largely to take as he finds and in a modern society it tends to be diverse and complex that the help of an expert is often essential not merely to enforce or defend legal rights but to recognize identify and define them legal aid implies give free legal services to the poor and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority. An act to constitute legal service authorities to provide free and competent legal service to 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 legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity. THE MEANING AND DEFINITION OF LEGAL AID Free or inexpensive legal advice, assistance, or representation provided to those who, because to their financial condition, otherwise would not be able to get. Legal aid schemes usually require that the matter for which aid is requested must have at least a 50 percent chance of succeeding in the court. Commonly, legal aid cannot be availed-of where:

When can legal services be rejected? A legal service be rejected if the applicant

Various Cases In Which Free Legal Aid Is Not Provided In the following cases legal aid is not available

HYPOTHESES The hypotheses framed and proposed to be tested in the study are as under:

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Reforms in legal aid and awareness with regard to the aged in India: A case for an inclusive approach

Jindal Global Law Review volume  13 ,  pages 253–276 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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With the increase in the ageing population in India and globally, there is a need to understand the specific challenges faced by the aged from the perspective of legal impediments for securing their well-being. Laws and legal institutions need to be simplified while improving the overall accessibility to justice for senior citizens. There is a need to usher in systemic changes to protect senior citizens through an inclusive legal system.

This article attempts to understand the challenges faced by senior citizens and traces how legal aid and awareness can be an effective tool to remedy some of the issues they confront. It begins by offering a descriptive analysis of the relevant Law Commission reports to understand the aspirations that are laid down with reference to granting legal aid and awareness. Such an analysis was sought so as to provide inputs to the semi-structured interviews that were conducted with senior citizens who were exposed to certain vulnerabilities because of lack of accessibility of legal aid/awareness.

The insights from the interviews provide evidence of the experiences of senior citizens in engaging with the law and legal institutions. These experiences aid in presenting the gaps between the recommendations of the Law Commission reports and the realities on the ground. To this end, the article examines the role and relevance of legal aid for the aged while highlighting the inability of the system to respond to some of the legal needs of the elderly and how these needs can be served by building a robust and rigorous legal aid and awareness mechanism.

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1 Introduction

One of the many constants of life is ageing, which is central to maintain the harmony of life. In our Indian society, from time immemorial, the aged have been revered, they have been constantly sought, for giving advice and making decisions. These notions have been changing with the passage of time and as such there has been a paradigm shift in such practices. The ageing population have largely been the victims of such changes in the larger socio-economic milieu. The aged, who are an important section of the society are unfortunately the most vulnerable when it comes to getting access to law and legal institutions. The pandemic has further exposed the need for access to law, the legal systems and services which are crucial aspects for ensuring a dignified life for the aged and the elderly. Such vulnerabilities are further compounded by limited interventions by the state.

In the recent past, there have been significant efforts towards according greater protection to the aged. There are dynamic changes within the family, necessitated by radical alterations to the institution, more so from a socio-economic perspective. This has pushed the aged to the brink of negligence, abuse, and suicide. The traditional perspective of living with and caring for the aged has undergone tremendous changes, and the aged are now perceived as a liability. The disconnect between the younger population and the aged has been widening with time. This necessitates a well-thought-out agenda and approach for addressing the innumerable challenges the aged encounter from a legal perspective. The traditional idea of caring for the aged, considered not only as a social but also a moral obligation, has been further consolidated and strengthened by the government through a series of interventions, especially in the last few decades.

The aged form a vulnerable group of the population due to their physical and mental dependency. Protecting the aged is not only a moral obligation on the part of the younger generation but also a constitutional obligation cast on the State under Part-IV of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Footnote 1 The provision casts responsibility on the state to secure the rights of the aged who belong to that category of citizens who are considered unwanted. Also referred to as ‘senior citizens’ or ‘elder persons’, they form a considerable portion of the population, locally as well as globally. The National Policy on Senior Citizens 2011 has largely indicated that there shall be an expansion of this group between 2000 and 2050. Footnote 2 According to the report, the demographic profile of those aged above 60 years is expected to increase by 326 per cent and those above 80 years by 700 per cent. Footnote 3 India’s life expectancy increased to 69.7 years in 2020 and is projected at 75.9 years by 2050, with 8 per cent of the population being elderly. Footnote 4 Globally, the United Nations World Assembly study conducted in the year 2002 had various recommendations for the aged, including the need to enable a supportive environment, provide legal advice, overcome legal barriers to accessing healthcare services, accord legal protection to elderly women, and strengthen the existing legal systems to eliminate abuse. Footnote 5

The elderly need access to healthcare, housing, safety-security, and various welfare measures. Additionally, atrocities and abuse against them have increased manifold. The National Crime Record Bureau data between 2014 and 2016 indicates a steady increase in crimes against the elderly from 18,174 to 21,410 reported cases. Footnote 6 The situation is further exacerbated in such cases where there is a need for legal advice and access to legal institutions. Footnote 7 An increase in life expectancy due to advancements in science and technology and a simultaneous increase in neglect and abuse of the elderly have necessitated state interventions to assure them a dignified life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. Footnote 8

With the expansion of the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution, the judiciary has brought within its purview various facets of the right to live with human dignity, Footnote 9 the right to access health and medical care, Footnote 10 right to a dignified life, Footnote 11 and governmental responsibility in providing medical aid, Footnote 12 which are aligned to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Footnote 13 Consequentially, the state had introduced the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, which provides relief to senior citizens who are largely neglected by their children. Such interventions by the state are rather limited and ad hoc.

COVID-19, an unprecedented pandemic, has created personal, financial, and social chaos for the aged. Specifically, abandonment, lack of accessibility, and added to this their inability to use technology have led to their further isolation. With the society adapting itself to the new norms post-pandemic, the aged have been at the crossroads, with little or no legal information on knowledge of specific laws, provisions, schemes, and general lack of awareness on the availability of free legal aid. Due to the inability to connect with their immediate family members, and loss of financial support and social life, the aged have limited or no points of access to seek legal advice and recourse. Across the globe, we have witnessed many frontline workers, individuals, police, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), stepping in to provide relief to the aged in the form of medical and food relief. But there are no specific instances reported where senior citizens are recipients of legal awareness and legal aid, with particular reference to India. It is equally true that the ageing Indian population are economically and socially dependent. With limited social security schemes, the old-age dependency ratio, which was 9.8 per cent in 2020, is likely to increase to 19.8 per cent by 2050. Footnote 14 It is time that all senior citizens be covered under the ambit of a separate class/category of citizens who should be made eligible to seek free legal aid and awareness, thereby ensuring legal security.

The Global Study on Legal Aid , jointly prepared by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, propagates the idea that in an endeavour to ensure equal access to justice, the rights of the elderly need to be protected. Footnote 15 As per the report, such measures should address the special needs of those groups, including gender-sensitive issues, and incorporate age-appropriate measures. The report also suggests that the elderly are specifically disadvantaged, especially while availing legal assistance and accessing the courts. Footnote 16 The report is critical from the perspective of non-availability of free legal aid and services to the specific population consisting of senior citizens who are vulnerable. Hence, the report demands interventions from the state for the welfare and security of senior citizens. Footnote 17

The Centre for Human Rights, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, in its report on the elderly has explicitly brought to the forefront the challenges faced by senior citizens and rendered suggestions to cope with specific issues. Footnote 18 The project report reflects that one of the main problems faced by the ageing population is the lack of appropriate legal awareness. Footnote 19 Hence there is a need for state intervention to effect appropriate changes to the existing legal framework and introduce policy changes to provide free legal aid and create legal awareness for the aged. This is crucial in order to build a just and inclusive society aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16. Footnote 20 The SDG’s targets include the promotion of law at national and international levels to ensure access to justice for all. The SDG also intends to achieve effective, accountable, and transparent institutions to ensure ‘inclusive’ decision making at all levels. Footnote 21 Hence the provision of legal aid is absolutely important for the well-being of senior citizens. The provision of legal counselling is also an important element for sound social, emotional, and physical well-being. Footnote 22 Against the backdrop of these goals, the present article explores the role and relevance of legal aid and awareness through various Law Commission reports and key documents on legal aid. This analysis has provided the impetus to understand the ground-level realities, which, backed by empirical insights, serve as the basis to render evidence-based recommendations.

2 Methodology

The study proceeds by first undertaking a review of the literature highlighting the barriers that senior citizens face and the need for formulating inclusive policies and legislation for them. Next, we examine various Law Commission reports, specifically focusing on what they aspire to achieve for senior citizens through policies and legislations. This sets the context for verifying the validity of these goals ‘in the field’ through specific case studies. The fifth section of the article uses case studies to illustrate and analyse the issues associated with senior citizens. Interviews were conducted with senior citizens in old age homes, in urban and rural areas, and those who had sought maintenance before Maintenance Tribunals. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with advocates, judicial officers, civic activists, and administrative officers experienced in issues relating to access to legal aid for the aged.

Information for developing specific case studies was collated through semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Interviews were conducted in-person, via telephone, and via video conferencing in some instances. Footnote 23 The consent of the respondents was taken prior to the interviews. The authors made handwritten notes wherever the respondents expressed scepticism with regard to the interviews being recorded, while some of the respondents consented to recording the interviews. The respondents were identified and selected through a purposive sampling method, as a cross-section of them were required to have an in-depth understanding of the issues faced by senior citizens. The researchers identified patterns through the interviews, which helped them to categorise three important themes––financial constraints, lack of speedy disposal of cases, and lack of legal awareness. The interviews of the respondents have been presented in the form of narratives, and the researchers have ensured confidentiality through the method of coding. The interviews of senior citizens are coded as RSSC01, 02, and so forth. Similarly, civil activists are assigned the code RSCA01, 02, etc., while administrative officers, advocates, and district magistrates are assigned the codes RSAO01, RSADV01, and RSDM01 respectively. Based on the inputs from the interviews, the article offers recommendations to make the law and legal systems accessible and inclusive for the aged.

3 Review of literature

COVID-19 has had a serious and pervasive effect on the judiciary, and India is no exception to this. In the midst of the global pandemic, when every state institution was vehemently trying to adapt itself, the judiciary and the judicial systems were, and to a certain extent still are, struggling with the need to adapt to new norms of hearing, representation, and maintenance of safety protocols. Footnote 24 Despite effecting changes in response to the pandemic, legal institutions and the judiciary have had their fair share of struggles. Footnote 25 One of the major impediments in this regard pertains to lack of access to justice, since a large segment of the society could not access the courts virtually, which left them out of the legal processes. Footnote 26 Although the pandemic elevated the Indian judiciary in terms of adapting itself to the vast infrastructural changes, it did leave out a majority of the vulnerable sections of the society from the judicial purview. Footnote 27

The aged have been stripped of their right to live with dignity due to the generation gap, economic reasons, abandonment due to migration, and many other factors. A review of the laws enacted specifically for the aged shows that there exist some major deficits in framing policies, legislations, and the justice delivery system. A closer look reveals that there is a dearth of specialised legislations for senior citizens. It is only the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 which is available for their benefit. Unlike other vulnerable segments of society, such as women and the underprivileged, the aged do not have adequate protection, which strips them of their rights. Footnote 28 The aged have been repeatedly subjected to atrocities, and studies have hinted that lack of awareness and guidance pose a major impediment in the enforcement of their legal rights. Footnote 29 The literature is replete with studies that show that the aged need to be protected as they are vulnerable. They play a very active role in the familial setup, yet suffer from loneliness, isolation, and lack of social recognition. Footnote 30

Policies for the aged in India are influenced by global discourse and international initiatives such as the Macau Plan of Action on Ageing for Asia and the Pacific and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. Footnote 31 The Macau Plan of Action focuses on four main areas for the ageing population, viz., understanding the challenges they face, the preparation towards harnessing the ageing population, development of infrastructural requirements, and delivery of essential services. Footnote 32 On similar lines, the Second World Assembly conducted by the United Nations in Spain, through its Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, drew the attention of the global community towards the development of senior citizens, health-related aspects, and enabling a supportive environment. Footnote 33 However, these discourses do not focus on the need for an inclusive approach with regard to accessibility of law and legal institutions for senior citizens.

There has been much discussion about access to healthcare and social security measures for the aged, but a grey area exists in terms of providing access to law and legal institutions. Despite the enactment of certain welfare legislations, the ground-level reality reflects a stark contrast while implementing these provisions for the aged. Footnote 34 With widespread financial, verbal, and social neglect of the aged, it is all the more imperative for the state to provide them with free legal aid and awareness. Effective laws and implementation of the legal system with special reference to the aged are negligible in the Indian context. Footnote 35

The aged are subject to a variety of abuse, such as physical, mental, and financial abuse. Studies have indicated that the majority of the aged are financially dependent on their children. Added to this are the health problems, which make them susceptible to mistreatment and denial of the basic necessities of life. Footnote 36 Financial autonomy is a key aspect of the ability of aged persons to access the courts of law during their twilight years. Lack of a continuous source of financial support, and material exploitation, amount to denial of financial accessibility to elders, which includes illegal and improper use of their funds, properties, and assets, Footnote 37 leaving them vulnerable. Such instances validate the need for providing them with free legal aid and awareness. Elder abuse and mistreatment is today a public health problem that is bound to multiply in the coming years. Footnote 38 The increase in the adult population necessitates more interventionist policies to curb elderly abuse and protect adults. Footnote 39 Hence, there is a growing need to provide the aged with legal aid and awareness that will facilitate them in leading a life of dignity by helping them overcome abuse through systematic and systemic changes.

Most often, abusers of senior citizens are family members, which leads to under-reporting of such instances. This is mostly due to dependency, fear of loss of reputation, and incidental consequences of reporting within the family. Footnote 40 Addressing elder abuse and neglect not only requires appropriate legal interventions but also legal remedies through state action. Across the globe, the need for state preparation to deal with the ageing population and in order to meet their concomitant needs is often discussed in relation to the financial burden that it can have on the state. Footnote 41 It is important that we treat the aged as resources and prepare the nation for the challenges that they face. Social inclusion of the aged in the domestic legislative and policy spectrum is being advocated across the globe, Footnote 42 and it is time that India too adopts such policies for the aged into its legal sphere.

Arguments are advanced that the elderly poor should be amongst the first to benefit from the legal system and need to be provided free access to the legal system. With rising costs and recession, especially due to the pandemic, the pressure on aged people to seek legal help is increasing. For the poor elderly, access to legal advice could also mean access to income, food, shelter, and medicine. Footnote 43

4 Legal aid to the aged through the lens of law commission reports and key documents on legal aid

Article 39A, inserted into the Indian Constitution through the 42nd Amendment, casts responsibility on the state to render free legal aid to the poor and underprivileged. Footnote 44 Pursuant to this, various schemes and legislations have been framed in order to give effect to this mandate. Footnote 45 Access to free legal aid is no longer considered as charity, but more as a basic human right that every individual is entitled to. Footnote 46 Mandating free legal aid ensures that an individual is able to exercise their right to claim free legal aid and awareness with dignity. Footnote 47 Despite the mandate, however, access to free legal aid and to courts of law is still an aspiration. Footnote 48 The judiciary too has stressed the need for free legal aid through its various judgments in the past. Footnote 49 Further, there has been very limited understanding in terms of rendering legal aid to the aged. Hence, this section explores how the Law Commission reports, over time, have made recommendations and rendered suggestions for the welfare of the aged/senior citizens. Some of the key documents pertaining to legal aid to senior citizens are mapped (See Table  1 ), and a descriptive analysis of the same is pursued in this section.

On 23 March 1949, the Bombay Legal Aid Committee was constituted under the aegis of Honourable Justice N H Bhagwati to examine the need for providing free legal aid in India. Footnote 50 The Report drew the attention towards a similar committee that was constituted under Lord Rushcliffe by Lord Chancellor Viscount Simon in order to make recommendations with regard to the then prevalent legal aid practices in England and Wales. The Bombay committee Report while citing the Rushcliffe report recommended expanding the ambit of legal aid to a wider section of the population who did not have access to legal help. In fact, the Rushcliffe report had cast the responsibility on the state while stressing the need for the legal profession to provide free legal aid to the poor and the deserving. Footnote 51 On similar lines, The Bombay Legal aid report, while recognising the need for equal access to legal aid and advice, specifically brought the backward communities under its ambit through the means test—a test by which a person’s financial position which fell below the prescribed level was made eligible to seek free legal aid. Footnote 52 The report was crucial, as the Indian government, acting on the suggestion of the Honourable Secretary of the Bombay Legal Aid Society, through a circular invited the views and opinions of all the provincial governments to make further provisions for expanding the scheme of legal aid to a much wider target audience. Footnote 53 The resolution passed was placed before the Bombay Legislative Council in September 1947 to constitute a committee to look into the aspect of providing free legal aid. The excerpt of the resolution is as follows:

This Council recommends to the Government to appoint a Committee whether it is desirable to give legal aid at Government cost to the poor and other deserving people who have to come before the courts of law, and if so what steps (including legislation) should be taken for giving such aid. Footnote 54

The suggestion was again placed before the Bombay Legislative Council in another Resolution in January 1949 by J H Shamsuddin, the then MLA in the Bombay Legislative Assembly with the intention of providing assistance to the deserving in all civil and criminal matters. Footnote 55

The report was important from the legal aid perspective but did not specifically target the ageing population except to observe that there was a need to bring many more classes of people within the ambit of legal aid in the future. The proposals made in the resolution were no doubt accepted by the Government of Bombay, Footnote 56 but the terms of reference set out for the Committee included only granting free legal aid for the poor and persons with limited means in all civil and criminal cases. The report was indeed elaborate while laying out the provision of legal aid at district and taluka Footnote 57 levels, to be administered in all civil, criminal, administrative, and tribunal matters. The report stressed the need for specifically providing legal aid to the backward classes by applying the ‘means test’ to determine their eligibility. Footnote 58

The report no doubt was limited, but it set the context for the future course of action to be taken with regard to granting legal aid to a wide range of categories of people. The report was the first of its kind in India, but it set the basis for the First Law Commission constituted under the aegis of M C Setalvad. The 14th Report submitted by the First Law Commission credited the Bombay Legal Aid Society for drawing the attention of the government towards the crucial task of rendering legal aid. Footnote 59 The Bombay Legal Aid Committee Report has also been highlighted as one of the most informed and detailed studies conducted in the area of legal aid. But sadly, its recommendations were not taken up on a priority basis in comparison to the Five-Year Plans. Based on the report, the Government of West Bengal set up a committee under the aegis of Sir Arthur Trevor Harris, the then Chief Justice of the High Court of Calcutta, to render recommendations for providing free legal aid to the ‘indigent’ population. Footnote 60

The First Law Commission’s 14th Report was brought out under the chairmanship of MC Setalvad with an intention to reformulate various central legislations. Footnote 61 Its report was the first comprehensive enquiry into the legal system prevalent in India after independence. The idea was to readjust the machinery of law and justice to meet the changing and growing needs of society. The report stressed the need for securing equality before the law and equal protection of the laws, and that people needed to have equal opportunity to access the courts and be adequately represented. The report was of the opinion that legal aid should also be inclusive of legal advice along the lines practised in Canada. Footnote 62 The report also drew attention towards the legal aid report brought forth in United Kingdom by the committee set up by Lord Chancellor in 1944, which had recommended that a wider income-group of people required to be included within the ambit of free legal aid, and the term ‘poor people’ needed to be replaced by ‘assisted person’. Footnote 63 The 14th Report, highlighted the responsibility of the state with regard to providing legal aid in the following words:

Legal aid is a service that the modern welfare state owes to its citizen. It is a part of the protection of the citizens’ individuality which in our modern conception of the relation between the citizen and the state can be claimed by those citizens who are too weak to protect themselves. Just as the modern state tries to protect the poorer classes against the common dangers of life such as employment, disease, old age, social oppression, etc., so it should protect them when legal difficulties arise. Footnote 64

The report opined that though the state might not be responsible for the outbreak of epidemics, for old age, or economic crisis, it had an inherent responsibility towards the law. The report was progressive and placed responsibility on the judiciary, legal profession, and the government to enact and implement laws that advanced social justice goals. The report was progressive in not only recommending including within the sweep of legal aid the marginalised sections, but also adopting an inclusive approach to treat legal aid on par with social insurance schemes for the aged. Footnote 65 The recommendations made in the 14th Law Commission Report were fully incorporated in the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. Until the recommendations made by the report were sought to be fully incorporated into suitable legislations and schemes, legal aid was being rendered through some voluntary organisations in the provinces of Bombay, Calcutta, and Bangalore. Footnote 66

The 6th Law Commission brought out the 48th Report under the chairmanship of P B Gajendragadkar at the instance of the Ministry of Home Affairs to bring reforms in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Footnote 67 The report, among other issues focused on providing free legal aid to women and children, especially those seeking maintenance under Section 488 of the CrPC. The report highlighted the importance of free legal aid to the indigent, with special reference to criminal cases. It highlighted that this was a basic human right requirement stipulated under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, the denial of which would be tantamount to denial of access to justice. The report also highlighted the fact that many deserving cases were left out for want of legal aid. Footnote 68 The report was crucial as it sought to introduce legal aid aspects into family matters. Footnote 69 But it did not highlight aspects of legal aid in maintenance issues pertaining to senior citizens. Only some of the recommendations of the report were incorporated into the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1972. Footnote 70

The Report of the Expert Committee on Legal Aid, Processual Justice to the People (1973), chaired by Justice V R Krishna Iyer, Footnote 71 was path-breaking as it recognised the need for legal aid to the indigent and disadvantaged sections of the society not only through state interventions but also highlighted the role of law schools and law students to provide free legal aid. Footnote 72 The Committee was of the opinion that legal aid was a product of the legal reform movement in India, and hence it needed to contribute to the corpus juris of the ones who truly deserved legal aid. Footnote 73 According to the report, the winds of change were inevitable through law reforms that could be ‘informed, purposeful and well-conceived’. Footnote 74 The report also highlighted the need for legal aid for the geographically disadvantaged, villagers, agricultural labourers, industrial workers, women, children, Harijans, Footnote 75 prisoners, and the minorities. But the report did not categorically include the aged. The committee opined that legal aid and legal awareness were in consonance with each other, and that it was important that the truly deserving should be entitled so that they were not played out at the hands of their opponents.

In Chap. 8 of the report, reference has been made to the need for public assistance to the aged, old age being considered as a case of ‘undeserved want’ as defined under Article 41 of the Constitution. The report highlighted the need for securing state interventions in the form of beneficial legislation and legal reforms.

The report was commendable as it included various classes of people within its sweep to be made eligible for free legal aid. The inclusion of law students as integral members of schemes to provide legal aid was recommended in this report. The Report had highlighted the inclusion of law students in legal aid schemes formulated by Gujarat Legal Aid Committee and Tamil Nadu Legal Aid Committee. Footnote 76 This was one of the first detailed reports, post India’s independence, to deal exclusively with legal aid aspects at various stages along with the states’ financial implications. Footnote 77 It was instrumental in paving the way for the establishment of the Legal Services Authority (LSA) to exclusively deal with and undertake legal aid activities at the national, state, and district levels. Footnote 78

The 128th Law Commission Report on the Cost of Litigation addressed the issue of the rising cost of litigation. Footnote 79 The intention of assigning the task to the Law Commission was to report on ‘the cost of litigation with a view to lessening the burden on the litigants.’ Footnote 80 The report highlighted that one of the major roadblocks in creating access to justice was the high cost of litigation. It stated the need for the state to bear the cost of litigation by rendering free legal aid to the deserving. Footnote 81 The report was particularly important as it recommended that the legal aid scheme be extended wherever possible. Though it did not explicitly make provisions for senior citizens, it emphasised the responsibility of the state aligned to Article 39A of the Constitution. The report highlighted that economic constraints cannot be the reason for denying access to justice. Footnote 82

The 131st Law Commission Report on the Role of the Legal Profession in Administration of Justice (1988) prepared under DA Desai highlighted the need for providing legal aid as per the constitutional mandate of Article 39A. Footnote 83 The administration of justice is strengthened by providing free legal aid to the deserving. The report stressed the need for securing ‘equal opportunities to all litigants in search of justice.’ Footnote 84 It hinted that those who were socially disabled should not be denied access to the courts of law.

Most of the State LSA have been involved in spreading awareness to the aged through distribution of printed booklets pertaining to their rights. Nevertheless, the LSA has not considered including senior citizens as a category of individuals to be entitled to free legal aid and awareness.

It would be pertinent to note that there are very limited policies for the elderly to ensure them effective access to justice and the laws. It is interesting that it is the Bill on Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens 2019, to a certain extent, which mentions the need for providing more accessible and age friendly environment and other public facilities along with helpline services for senior citizens. Footnote 85 There has been sporadic effort in helping the elderly through government interventions in matters such as health and medicine, pensions, and housing, Footnote 86 while largely leaving them out of the purview of easy access to courts of law with a view to ensuring equity. Hence it is imperative that the government formulate effective strategies and make suitable inclusions for the ageing population to be entitled to free legal aid.

5 Legal aid to the aged: Case studies

The case studies presented in this section examine how senior citizens are challenged in today’s context. In order to understand the same, in-depth interviews comprising a cross-section of senior citizens were conducted. The interviews of the senior citizens are presented in the form of narratives along with expert opinions of administrative officers, civil activists, advocates, and judicial officers. An admixture of interviews of senior citizens from old age homes, single senior citizens, and senior citizens from rural and urban backgrounds has been presented herewith. The section puts forth the various vulnerabilities that senior citizens face, such as financial inability, uncertain judicial outcomes, physical and mental fragility, and, largely, the Indian social setup that deters them from approaching and seeking redressal from the courts of law. The article provides the impetus for the government to take note of the legal inadequacies with respect to senior citizens and undertake effective steps to address their issues.

5.1 Economic constraints

Economic poverty of the aged is one of the reasons why they face marginalisation. Sociologically, retirement and loss of income are major barriers for senior citizens. Further, studies have shown that adult children are still largely dependent on senior citizens financially. Footnote 87 In India, a vast majority of senior citizens are left out of the purview of receiving pension, thus making them rely on inconsistent sources of financial income to support themselves in their later years. In this regard, an elderly widowed woman was of the following opinion:

I, being the second wife of my husband, do not have children of my own. Elder wife’s children forced me to give away all my property, jewellery, silver coins, and shares of my late husband. Currently, I have moved out of the house and am staying in a rented apartment. Although I receive a pension, I am barely able to pay rent and manage my daily affairs and medicines. I was sceptical of approaching the courts as I would not have received any maintenance as I draw pension every month. Moreover, I did not want to approach the court as I did not have much faith in the law and legal systems. (RSSC01)

Senior citizens’ inability to earn, added to financial instability, is a major cause of concern for them in approaching the courts of law. They are severely handicapped because of the financial uncertainties they need to face which they are not prepared for.

Such instances are not uncommon even amongst the urban affluent senior citizens. Financial constraint is a source of challenge to even senior citizens with a sound financial background. From some of the respondents’ interview, it became clearer that parents from well-to-do backgrounds have been immediately thrown out of the house once all the property has been transferred in the children’s name. Hence, another respondent who runs an old age home had the following to say:

Most of the senior citizens have been defrauded by their children. In one such instance, senior citizens came through an NGO that provided them with legal aid. Their son used to run a chit-fund in their name and had disappeared with all the money. They were aged around 90 and above and could barely hear. The NGO had stopped providing them with legal help. There were eight criminal charges of fraud that were levelled against them. The family is well known in Bangalore as they had donated large swathes of land for the construction of temples. Hence they reach out to us and don’t have much awareness about the law. It is mostly the NGOs and police authorities that help them during such instances. (RSCA01)

Such instances reaffirm the need for financial succour from the state. The respondent in the above instance elaborated the need for the state to step in to help senior citizens deal with legal processes and institutions in an appropriate manner. The respondent further elaborated that senior citizens are unable to independently handle the situation and state intervention is paramount in such instances.

There is a need for financial support not only at the grassroots level, but also at various stages of the litigation process. It is not uncommon for senior citizens to receive legal help and remedy in the initial stages under the Maintenance Tribunal. Footnote 88 Powers are vested with the tribunals to cancel the deed that transferred the rights to the children when they did not take up the responsibility of looking after their aged parents. But the issue is problematic, when appealed because that increases the financial burden of the senior citizens. Lack of financial support remains a major roadblock in such instances. An advocate who dealt with one such matter made the following observation in this regard:

A senior citizen aged around 75 had a son aged 45 who abandoned his father after all the money and property were transferred in the son’s name. The father approached the Maintenance Tribunal. The Assistant Commissioner passed an order cancelling the gift deed made by the father to the son. The same was challenged by the son before the Hon’ble High Court. The client was referred to him via another advocate colleague. These senior citizens do not have much idea and are completely dependent on their advocates for guidance and support. Although the appeal was dismissed and upheld the Assistant Commissioner’s order, the senior citizen was put in much peril. (RSADV01)

Free legal aid and assistance ought to be given to the aged at various levels. Senior citizens can be taken advantage of when they rely completely on advocates. The above was corroborated by an Assistant Commissioner, who is also vested with the powers to act as the Presiding Officer of the Maintenance Tribunal, in the following words:

There is absolutely no interference by lawyers when the matters are before the Maintenance Tribunal. We try to ensure that 99 per cent of the cases are in favour of senior citizens, but despite that, we have witnessed that the majority of the children approach the courts after the cancellation of the registered deeds that were made by the aged parents in their favour. (RSAC01)

Hence, it is important to ensure that in such cases, where children appeal the matter, senior citizens are not incapacitated from taking the matter forward due to lack of financial support. Legal aid is also crucial in appellate matters, in order to ensure that they are not misled by some unscrupulous members of the legal profession.

With the changing social structures of the family set-up, there have been drastic changes in the relationship between parents and children. In some instances, the children are preoccupied with earning for the family while leaving the aged at home to take care of legal matters. One of the senior citizens expressed his helplessness in the following words:

I am a 70-year-old man, a widower, with a petition between my brothers and I for sharing of property. The property is still in the name of my late father and hence [I] approached the court in Chikkaballapur. I myself have been running in and out of the courts for the past five years and have been looking for a compromise now as none of my children are interested in my affairs. I have failing health and mostly stay in temples. I have no one to even accompany me to visit the courts as well. Advocates do not say anything, and we are left at their mercy in our twilight years. (RSSC02)

The changing dynamics of the familial set-up have further isolated senior citizens. As a consequence, there is a genuine need for legal assistance.

The problem is even more persistent in semi-urban and rural areas, compounded by the fact that the elderly need to travel to talukas for hearing of the petitions and to the nearest towns and cities, especially in appellate matters. In such cases, the senior citizens are dependent on the younger generation for commuting as well as for financial considerations to visit the courts for the hearings. Narrating one such instance, a senior citizen recounted his ordeal as follows:

I am a 65-year-old and have three cases pending before various forums in Chikkaballapur and Gauribidanur. One case pertains to Easementary rights, which has been going on since 2017, and at the evidence stage; the second case pertains to a property dispute between my wife with her siblings; and the third case pertains to the division of property between my brothers and me. My son resides in Bangalore while my daughter is married. It is becoming expensive by the day to deal with all three cases. (RSSC03)

The above instance connotes the need for an active response from the state with regard to allocating fixed financial resources, to entail the class of senior citizens to be made eligible for availing of free legal aid and services. The problem of financial assistance is pervasive when it comes to senior citizens. Hence it is time that the state becomes serious with regard to the issue to ensure access to justice.

5.2 Judicial intervention: Lack of early disposal of cases

The Indian judiciary is saddled with cases, and despite so many years of independence, it grapples with mounting numbers of cases. The judiciary is facing an uphill task in responding to the increasing volume of cases. Footnote 89 India’s Law Commission reports have time and again highlighted this issue since the year 1964. The surging cases and the inability of the judiciary to dispose of the matter has shaken the trust of the common man. Footnote 90 In particular, civil justice in India is very slow, and the rate of case disposal is still very low. Footnote 91 Such delays have a visible impact, especially on senior citizens, as evidenced below.

I did not feel like approaching the court to fight for my rights after my son, daughter-in-law, and two daughters did not take care of me. I did not have much faith in the judiciary. I did consult my niece, who is a lawyer, and she too said that there would be a delay in the courts. I did not want to risk at this age approaching a court. My niece did help me with all the legal advice, but for how long could I be dependent on her, even if I approached the court. Maybe I would have been comfortable if I had received any help from the government. (RSSC03)

Time is a crucial factor for senior citizens, whereby they look for early disposal of cases. They are mostly at a stage where they wish to secure the rest of their life and live comfortably. They do not wish to spend the rest of their years in a court of law. Most of the interviewees strongly believed that they were better off without approaching the court and that it was a futile exercise. Some of them opined that they were uncertain if they would even be alive by the time the judgment was delivered by the courts.

Respondent RSSC03 said that since he suffered from depression from the fact that he was living alone, he could not bear the thought of approaching the court and falling victim in the hands of the law and legal system. Inordinate delay in the court procedures has compelled senior citizens at various stages to suffer silently rather than approach a court of law.

A social activist, involved in ensuring that senior citizens are rehabilitated in old age homes, observed that senior citizens in cases of abuse reach out to the Old Age Help Line, where they are counselled and sent to organisations that take care of them. The National Helpline for Senior Citizens is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. Footnote 92 There is unwillingness on their part to approach the court as they are scared and do not believe that much can be achieved by approaching the court of law. The respondent had even filed a public interest litigation on behalf of senior citizens. He made the following statement, requesting anonymity:

We do not have much trust in the system. We cannot convince the senior citizens at this stage to approach a court of law. There have also been instances where some have even tried to take advantage of their age and approach the court for personal benefits. It is a hassle for the senior citizens at this age as there is an inordinate delay in the justice delivery systems. They are at a stage wondering how they will live, and it would be difficult and time-consuming. Most of the time, we are with them, but who will be with them to attend to the cases and take them forward. Most of the time, we try to effect a compromise between the parents and the children. (RSCA02)

Delay in court procedures and lack of any specific intervention from the law and legal processes, force senior citizens to suffer in isolation. Even if they do approach the courts, they do not have appropriate legal guidance to manoeuvre the situation appropriately.

Government administrative officials who are given charge of the Maintenance Tribunal said that the procedure before the Maintenance Tribunal is very simple as there are not many formalities involved. The concerned officer stated that they receive two to three such cases that come before them every month on average, which is treated on a priority and deal with the cases immediately. The officers are empathetic; despite this, senior citizens feel that they are not attended to on a timely basis. The administrative officer opined that:

As an Executive Magistrate and an Assistant Commissioner, I try my best to hear the cases. But the senior citizens’ cases are also taken up along with many other public hearings. Our schedules are tight, and many senior citizens are reluctant to attend the cases along with the others. There is no fixed date and hearing, and sometimes, they just leave. We try to ensure that the matter is disposed of in 60 days; despite that, in some instances, it can go up to 120 days. (RSEM02)

Legal institutions need to be inclusive of senior citizens. Provisions ought to be made to expedite cases of senior citizens. As court procedures are cumbersome, the senior citizens need to be heard on separate days and times. The law and the institutions need to be responsive and undertake such appropriate measures to aid in early disposal of cases.

The situation became all the more problematic with the pandemic; senior citizens could not be called to the court due to the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic. At the same time, senior citizens’ matters could not be taken up, as they were unfamiliar with online court processes and mechanisms. In this regard, a senior citizen from a taluka responded with regard to the status of the cases during the pandemic:

During the pandemic, dates would mostly be given by clerks; either the judges were getting transferred, or they were in training. One case has been pending since 2017, another since 2009, and the property dispute has been pending since the year 1989. After 60 years, most of us suffer from some or the other ailment. Since we could not step into the courts, we got ‘Corona dates’, there were hardly any judges or lawyers in the court during the pandemic, and we did not know how to proceed as our advocates would not say anything to us. (RSSC04)

The above situations have led to inordinate delay in the court processes, especially the ones that involved senior citizens. Respondent RSEM03, an officer, observed that for some time, senior citizens did face ‘exclusion’ during the pandemic. On similar lines, a senior advocate practising in the High Court of Karnataka made the following statement:

In my so many years of practice, what I have experienced is that early hearing on a priority basis is one of the ways for early disposal of cases for senior citizens. But in reality, that is not the case. The implementation is lacking in this regard, which puts the senior citizens at a disadvantage. I have been to the National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences (NIMHANS) and KIDWAI Memorial Institute of Oncology Cancer Research and Training Centre, where I have rendered pro-bono legal advice to many patients and their relatives. There is a need to build a sense of trust in the judicial system. (RSAD02)

Hence the law and the legal system need to respond to the aged in a systematic and time-bound manner. In order to ensure early disposal of cases and build trust towards law amongst senior citizens, interventions from the legal fraternity through legal aid and awareness are all the more pertinent.

5.3 Lack of legal awareness

Legal awareness is of paramount importance to the general public. Legal awareness is essentially the awareness of citizens’ rights and obligations, knowledge of the existing legislations, and, at the same time, the ability to deploy this knowledge in exercising and defending their rights through legal mechanisms. Footnote 93 There is a need to educate the senior citizens to help them understand what law is, and how it functions and works for their benefit. Legal consciousness is an imperative tool to help senior citizens to help themselves. A senior citizen in an old age home had the following observation to make:

My wife and I were abandoned; we reached out to the Old Age Help Line through a neighbour, where we were counselled and sent to this NGO. We are now confused and unable to comprehend and process the whole situation. Hence it is difficult for us to take a sudden decision. We are victims of abuse and wish we were educated about the law. (RSSC05)

Most of the respondents lamented that they were not legally conscious and wished they were educated about the laws and the legal institutions. Similar response was espoused by RSSC01. The respondent regretted that she had no idea of the law. She expressed the view that she was not aware of the provisions of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 which considered women as coparceners, until recently.

She expressed with anguish that despite being educated, she did not know ‘how’ and ‘where’ to approach [the law] while the brothers took away all her ancestral property. She expressed that ‘I would have been comfortable if we had received some knowledge of the law.’ She said that lack of legal awareness is a major problem, especially for senior citizens.

The issue is persistent, especially among senior citizens in rural areas, as they are absolutely unaware of the law and the legal systems. There is a sense of apprehension, especially when it comes to law and advocates. They are too scared to even speak up with their advocates about the progress of the case. They spoke to us in hushed tones and were scared that someone would hear and report it to their advocates and the courts. There was large-scale ignorance amongst the senior citizens, and they looked upon the judicial process as elite. In this regard, it is pertinent to highlight how scared a senior citizen was when he made the following statement:

We just blindly listen to what the lawyers tell us. They hush us up when we ask them any question. We have left everything in the hands of the advocate. We approach the local panchayat members, who refer us to an advocate as we don’t have much choice in this regard. I sometimes feel that advocates purchase a settlement with the opposite party for a lesser price, and we have no option but to concede to the same. Most of the time, the advocates don’t respond to our questions, and we are left totally helpless. (RSSC04)

Large-scale ignorance of law was a major impediment to senior citizens, who expressed a lot of fear of the system. An administrative officer, while highlighting the issue pertaining to legal awareness, made the following statement:

The Act pertaining to the Maintenance of Senior Citizens is there since 2007. We are now in 2022, yet people are not aware of the Act. We are trying to educate people as well as the police. The police, too, treat this as a regular civil dispute. The civil courts have no jurisdiction in such matters. The people are influenced by local leaders and gram panchayat members who act on their advice. (RSAC01)

These situations highlight the fact that due to a lack of legal awareness, most senior citizens are victims of misinformation and miscommunication. In order to remedy the situation, there is a need for proper legal awareness through appropriate authorities. A judicial official said that it is pertinent to involve the LSA in this regard. He commented:

The LSA needs to be active. They need to give suggestions, especially as to how senior citizens need to be made aware of various legal procedures and how to approach the authorities. The LSA functions need to include appropriate provisions to render legal aid and awareness to senior citizens. (RSDM04)

The officer further lamented that he had never heard of the LSA referring any senior citizens’ cases, to the Tribunals or to the courts, to take up such matters. The need of the hour is an effective legal system, which can be achieved by rendering effective legal awareness.

6 Recommendations

Through this study, the researchers intend to pursuade the relevant authorities to take note of the difficulties faced by senior citizens and undertake appropriate measures to ease the law and legal processes for senior citizens. Thus, in this section, a course of action is recommended that can be considered by the concerned authorities. The mental faculty, financial instability, and educational and social backwardness of senior citizens fuel the need to implement the following recommendations:

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authority Act states the criteria for receiving legal services, which include members of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children, victims of human trafficking, persons with special needs, industrial workers, victims of mass disaster, persons in custody, and people with low annual income. Suitable amendments ought to be made to the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 to make senior citizens eligible for free legal aid and services. The various Law Commission reports have time and again suggested including more deserving people within the ambit of free legal aid. It is time that suitable additions be made to Section 12 of the Legal Services Authority Act.

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) formulated a Legal Services Scheme in 2016 to ensure the welfare of senior citizens. One of the preliminary objectives of the scheme is to provide legal awareness to senior citizens. The objectives also aim to establish legal aid clinics at all levels, including universities. The State Legal Services Authority has to implement the same by conducting dissemination activities of its policies, schemes, and programmes to senior citizens as well as government functionaries. There is a need to give effect to its objectives in its true spirit by conducting adequate legal awareness programmes/workshops specifically targeting senior citizens on issues such as maintenance, civil rights, elder abuse, property rights, etc., which are still lacking. The awareness programmes should also include taking note of simple problems such as non-availability of Aadhaar cards, ration cards, and other important documents. Once the problems are noted, it is equally important that the problems be forwarded to the relevant authorities and compliance ensured. It is important that the senior citizens are empowered to act on the information provided to them.

Under the Maintenance Act 2007, the Maintenance Tribunals are presided over by administrative officers. These administrative officers have been assigned numerous responsibilities, including: managing governmental responsibilities in terms of formulation, implementation, and monitoring of policies in consultation with the various departments—financial management, disaster relief, and many others. Hence, the administrative officers have been accorded immense responsibilities. There is a need for appointment of a separate judicial officer to deal with senior citizens maintenance cases, as the administrative officers may not have the requisite expertise to act as judicial officers. This approach ensures early and speedy disposal of senior citizens’ cases on priority.

Senior citizens face innumerable challenges especially from the health perspective. In order to accommodate them and to ensure a fair opportunity to access justice, it is pertinent to allocate separate dates and times of hearing to senior citizens. The cases are not to be treated as regular cases and need to be accorded priority. This is to be done keeping in mind the health and psychological limitations faced by them.

Part IV of the Bar Council of India Rules on Legal Education (2008) makes the establishment of legal aid clinics in law schools mandatory. This is an important prerequisite for law schools for establishment as well as for the purpose of accreditation. At the same time, NALSA has formulated the National Legal Services Authority (Legal Services Clinics in Universities, Law Schools, and Other Universities) Scheme in 2013. The scheme is pursued with the intention of sensitising the students towards the needs of marginalised and vulnerable sections of society through awareness programmes such as camps, seminars, street plays, and counselling services. This provides an opportunity for the LSA to utilise the services of law students as well train them in the required skill-set necessary for the profession. In order to achieve this, the LSA should work in tandem with NGOs and law schools’ legal aid clinics at the district and taluka levels to help them in creating awareness and providing legal aid to senior citizens.

The police are the first point of contact for any information that citizens seek. Hence, it is pertinent that they are guided accordingly. In most instances, when senior citizens approach them, the police treat the matters as regular matters. Hence, police officials need to be trained and made aware so as to not treat senior citizens’ maintenance cases as regular civil suits.

Senior citizens need to be guided towards accessing legal institutions. Hence, if consultation centres are established in certain designated police stations, it would help senior citizens who lack knowledge and awareness of the law to undertake appropriate steps or decide their future course of action.

Separate infrastructure facilities should be established for senior citizens in the court premises at the district and taluka levels. The facilities can include separate enclosures or waiting lounges, seating spaces, basic healthcare facilities, essential goods, and ramps.

In most cases, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, there is a general fear amongst the public with regard to approaching the courts and legal institutions. In some instances, the aged are misled by people who do not have adequate information. Hence it would be appropriate to appoint special officers or train the existing panchayat officers by equipping them with the right information to guide the senior citizens to appropriate forums and oversee the implementation of the above requirements.

The present Senior Citizens Act 2007 does not contain specific provision for early disposal of cases. Hence, if specific provisions to expedite the cases are incorporated, it can ensure early disposal of maintenance cases. This casts responsibility on the administrative officers to engage with senior citizens on a priority basis.

Constitution of India 1950, Article 41: ‘The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.’

National Policy on Senior Citizens 2011, 2. . Accessed 15 August 2022.

Leyanna Susan George, ‘Ageing in India: An Intricate Phenomenon’ in Helaine Seline (ed), Aging across Cultures: Growing Old in the Non-Western World (Springer 2021) 165–179.

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25(1): ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’

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United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Study on Legal Aid––Global Report (2016) 73. The study provides insights into the current state of legal aid practices across the globe. The report also highlights specific challenges and priority areas of legal aid delivery.

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The interviews were conducted between the duration of January 2022 to May 2022.

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Burton D Fretz, ‘Legal Services and the Elderly Poor’ (1984) 8(3) Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging 14.

Constitution of India 1950, Article 39A: ‘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.’

Schemes such as NALSA (Legal Services to Senior Citizens) Scheme, 2016; Legal Services to Victims of Acid Attacks Scheme, 2016; Protection and Enforcement of Tribal Rights Scheme, and many more are formulated by NALSA.

Chetan Kaushik, ‘Free Legal Aid: A Human Right, Not “Charity”’ (2020) 3(4) International Journal of Law Management & Humanities 1821, 1826.

Isabell Manoj and Angel Shaji, ‘Is Free Legal Aid Available and Beneficial for the Targeted Community’ (2022) 5(2) International Journal of Law Management & Humanities 543.

Andrew Higgins, ‘Legal Aid and Access to Justice in England and India’ (2014) 26(1) National Law School of India Review 13.

See, e.g., Hussainara Khatoon and Ors v Secretary, State of Bihar (1980) 1 SCC 98 [Bhagwati PN J].

Legal Department for the Government of Bombay, Report of the Committee on Legal Aid and Legal Advice . Under Government Resolution No 3157 (White Paper, Cm 1[(21]), 2009) part III (viii) 2.

No D.10/46-C & G (Judl.), 1946, cited in Report of the Committee on Legal Aid and Legal Advice (n 50) 2.

Report of the Committee on Legal Aid and Legal Advice (n 50) citing the Bombay Legislative Council resolution 2.

Ibid. 2, 3.

An administrative unit in India below a district. Also called ‘tehsil’ in north India.

Ibid. 30–39.

Law Commission of India, Reforms of Judicial Administration (Law Com No 14, 1958) 587.

Ibid. 15, 16, 588.

Ibid. 587–624.

Law Commission of India, Some Questions under the Criminal Procedure Code (Law Com No 48, 1972) 23–28.

Ibid. 22, 23.

The Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

Government of India, Report of the Expert Committee on Legal Aid: Processual Justice to People (May 1973).

Ibid. 155–164.

Members of the hereditary Hindu group who were formerly considered inferior and who had the lowest social status.

Report of the Expert Committee on Legal Aid (n 71) 155, 156.

Ibid. Chapter 19, 273.

Law Commission of India, Cost of Litigation (Law Com No. 128, 1986).

Law Commission of India, Report on the Role of Legal Profession in Administration of Justice (31 August 1988).

Section 25 of the Bill seeks to insert a new section 23A for ‘Other Welfare Measures for Senior Citizens’ after Section 23 of the principal Act, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

Aparajita Chattopadhyay, ‘Population Policy for the Aged in India’ (2004) 39(43) Economic and Political Weekly 4694.

A Justine Kristel Villegas, ‘Greying Matters: Aging in Contemporary Philippine Society’ (2014) 62(1) Philippine Sociological Review 139.

The Maintenance Tribunal is established under section 7, by the respective state governments under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. The Tribunal is presided over by an officer not below the rank of a Sub-Divisional officer of a state. Under Section 9, the Tribunal is vested with the power to order maintenance in the form of a monthly allowance for senior citizens whose children have either neglected or refused to take care of them.

Gurrashmeet Singh, ‘Delay in Justice Delivery System in India’ (2021) 1 Jus Corpus Law Journal 634.

Jeffrey Falt, ‘Congestion and Delay in Asia’s Courts’ (1985) 4(1–2) UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal 90.

Krishna Agrawal and Neha Dixit, ‘Civil Justice in India’ (2016) 3(4) BRICS Law Journal 71.

National Implementing Agency (an empowered Committee) set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment along with NISD (National Institute for Social Defence) is currently hosting the Elder Line in collaboration with the state governments. Operationally, the state agencies will be working closely with all state departments and district functionaries to deliver services. This is a collaborative approach between MOSJE, State departments, Identified state agency, NGOs, local senior citizens group, voluntary groups etc. For more information see PIB Delhi, ‘National Helpline for Senior Citizens’ (27 September 2021).,of%20life%20of%20senior%20citizens . Accessed 2 November 2022.

Oleksandr V Skrypniuk, Nataliya M Onishchenko, Natalia M Parkhomenko, ‘Awareness in Law as Strategical Direction of Legal Policy’ (2019) 10(5) Journal of Advanced Research in Law and Economics 1534.

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K, R., Singai, C. Reforms in legal aid and awareness with regard to the aged in India: A case for an inclusive approach. Jindal Global Law Review 13 , 253–276 (2022).

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