Otis seeks to halt action over lift death

OTIS Elevator Co, which faces disciplinary action after a civil servant plunged to his death down the shaft of a lift that was being repaired, is seeking an order from the High Court to halt the hearing of the complaint.

Otis contends that the law empowering the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services to appoint a disciplinary board with the director or his representative as chairman is contrary to the Bill of Rights and should be repealed.

The company, in an application for a judicial review, also claimed that the disciplinary board appointed in December 1992 to adjudicate in the complaint against Otis was invalidly constituted.

In addition, it is seeking an order prohibiting the board from holding further hearings or determining the outcome of the complaint.

According to a writ filed in February by the widow of Wong Wang-tat, 49, against Otis, the incident occurred on March 14, 1992.

The writ claims Otis technicians repairing the lift failed to place any repair notice alongside the lift or a barrier across the lift door to prevent people using it. As a result, Wong fell down the shaft and died.

Under section 11G of the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance, the Director of Mechanical and Electrical Services - if he feels a registered lift contractor has been negligent - may bring the matter to the notice of the disciplinary board.

Section 11E (1) empowers the director to appoint such a board, which, under 11E (2) and (3), must include the director or his representative, who must be the chairman.

John Bleach, for Otis, submitted before Mr Justice Penlington yesterday that these two sections were contrary to the Bill of Rights and should be repealed.

According to Article 10 of the Bill, all persons should be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by the law.

Under 11E and 11G, he said, the director not only made a preliminary decision as to whether a registered lift contractor was guilty of negligent and brought the matter to the notice of the disciplinary board, he also decided the constitution of that board and who would sit as chairman, placing serious doubts on the board's impartiality.

The hearing continues.