Error-ridden laws prompt drafting query

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 1999, 12:00am

The quality of law drafting has been called into question after a review found two anti-discrimination laws were peppered with inconsistencies and errors.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is proposing a package of amendments after examining the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

A copy of the report showed the watchdog had spotted at least four discrepancies between the pieces of legislation.

The sex discrimination law stipulates that voting rights and the right to be elected or appointed to advisory or public bodies should not be restricted due to one's sex, marital status or pregnancy.

But no such safeguards had been included in the disability discrimination law.

The commission said it was in breach of the equal opportunities principle. The Sex Discrimination Ordinance empowers the commission to issue enforcement notices for compliance but the disability law had no such provisions.

The commission believed that was an oversight when legislating.

Cross-references between the two laws were also confusing.

The commission said a reference to the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance in the disability law should read section 67 instead of 69.

Provisions exempting public officers from any legal liability during investigations of sex discrimination were also missing in the other law.

A member of the Commission, Hung Suet-lin, described the inconsistencies as 'outrageous'.

'Is it a problem of negligence of law drafting? The ordinances are supposed to be scrutinised by the policy bureaus, legislators and law drafters of the Government and Legco. But still there are such careless mistakes. How can we make sure the legislation is free of errors? How is that process going to be monitored? Laws are final after enactment. If we have a problem, it could be very serious.' She said the amendments were mainly technical, but said they should be urgently dealt with.

The Home Affairs Bureau said more time was needed to study the proposals before making a response.

'Although the two ordinances are related to discrimination, they need not necessarily be consistent,' a bureau spokeswoman said.