Tuesday, July 20, 2010

DELHI SENIORS CROWDCOURTS TO STAY BUSY

Over 70 per cent of the elderly in litigation against govt & relatives

AFTER 60, what? This existential question rattles most people who are inching towards retirement age. In Delhi, however, it seems senior citizens have found a novel way to spend time after retirement — head for the courts.

A survey titled ‘ Major Challenges Before Older Persons of Delhi and NCR’, conducted by the Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre, has revealed that more than 70 per cent of senior citizens in the Capital stay busy fighting cases in various courts, commissions and tribunals.
These litigious senior citizens are proud of what they do because they believe they’re fighting for justice. “They say it’s an occupation and it keeps them active,” the survey report says.

The survey was conducted in the first week of July to identify the reasons that push the elderly to the corridors of the courts. As many as 3,000 senior citizens from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad were interviewed for the survey.

Most of the cases filed by the elderly are against the government and its agencies as well as municipal authorities. The next big targets are banks and financial institutions. Property disputes, neighbours and family members are responsible for the remaining cases.

Legal experts have endorsed the survey findings. Prominent Delhi High Court lawyer Ashok Agarwal says you just have to go to the courts to know that the survey is very much on target. “On any given day, you’ll find a growing number of senior citizens sitting outside courtrooms,” Agarwal says. “This is a mechanism for the elderly to minimise the harassment they face from private companies, government bodies and their own children,” he adds.

Former Delhi High Court judge and president of the Delhi State Consumer Commission, Justice J. D. Kapoor (Retd), confirm the trend. The rise in the number of cases filed by senior citizens is driving up the load on consumer courts. “When the elderly are harassed by members of their families or by private companies, the only option left with them is to knock on the doors of courts,” Kapoor says.

Back in July 2001, the Delhi High Court had directed the subordinate courts to prioritise cases involving senior citizens.
Legal experts, though, insist there are other methods to settle cases filed by senior citizens. “The cases filed by the elderly should be decided using mediation, arbitration and reconciliation. Fasttrack court are the other option,” suggests Priya Hingorani, advocate and former vice- president, Supreme Court Bar Association.

Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge India, points out that the elderly see themselves as soft targets for robberies, fraud, property disputes as well as emotional and physical abuse. “So, as a preventive measure they keep approaching courts,” Cherian says. “They believe that the only way to get things done is by seeking legal help.” Citing the calls the NGO’s helpline gets from the distressed senior citizens, Cherian says most of the callers seem to want their disputes to be settled in courts and not by the local police. “Delhi’s senior citizens have more faith in the judiciary than in the police,” Cherian says.

The reasons cited by the senior citizens for turning litigious make for interesting reading. “A majority of senior citizens are fighting legal cases just to kill time,” the survey report points out.

Nearly 60 per cent of the respondents said they had filed cases to satisfy their ego or because they were just addicted to going to courts.

Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat, however, disagrees with this bit of the survey. “Senior citizens get into litigation only as the last resort,” she says. “We can’t say they go to courts to kill time. They must have some genuine reasons, otherwise why should they get engaged in a lengthy legal procedure,” Bhat asks.
Another big motivation, according to the survey, is to gain respect from their children. “They feel if they win in the courts, they would regain the respect of their families and be better looked after by their children,” says Agewell founder Himanshu Rath. Though many senior citizens fight cases for entirely personal reasons, many more knock at the doors of the courts with the intention of doing well to the society. The right to information and the consumer protection acts are their best allies in this effort.

An interesting finding of the survey is that 70 per cent of litigious senior citizens have filed two or more cases in different courts. These elderly litigants agreed that because they had plenty of free time, they could prepare better for legal battles.
“When they were young, they say, they could not fight court cases because of career commitments,” Rath adds, drawing his inference from the survey report.

High- minded senior citizens, clearly, are getting serious about turning the law into a vehicle for social change.

AN OLD CASE
Over 3.1 CRORE cases are pending before various courts of law in India.

In Delhi, the figure hovers at 12 LAKH

A survey by the Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre on elderly litigants reveals that a chunk of these 12 lakh petitioners are senior citizens

Over 55 PER CENT of the aged respondents said they were fighting cases because they had “ plenty of free time”.

Around 57.85 PER CENT of the respondents said they were knocking on courts’ doors just to satisfy their ego or because they were “ addicted” to fighting cases

Over 72.5 PER CENT elderly said they file cases only to “ get respect” from their children

SIXTY- THREE PER CENT litigants said fighting cases was an “ occupation” which keeps them active
Around 50.3 PER CENT elderly said they filed cases after they turned 60
Source: The Mail Today
19/7/2010