On several occasions I have wondered why S12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 does not include Senior Citizens as one of the categories of people eligible for free legal services. It appears that the government too has now realized this inequity and has made an attempt to set this right. While I laud this step I still feel that the measures taken are not enough. Some while ago, on another blog I had put up a rant about another category of people who were not able to access legal help for an entirely different reason.
I think this is a problem with the pigeon hole approach to selecting categories of persons eligible for Legal Aid under the Legal Services Act. Since legal representation has been recognized as being much more than a statutory right in a host of cases starting from Gideon, I don't see why if a person is not able to access legal help for whatever reason, but does not fall under any of the categories provided under S12 of the LSA Act shouldn't be given Legal Aid. In the other post I think I had said something to the effect of preferring a test that looks for cases where the litigant is not able to avail legal help otherwise for whatever other reason.
This also does not solve the problem of the quality of the free legal aid available. Apart from dereliction of duty by the lawyers, I can think of at least 2 LSC cases where the Legal Aid Lawyer has been accused of skimming off the maintenance money awarded to the litigant.
P.S. The new amendment offers free legal aid to those who those affected by terrorist attacks/riots also.