Govt drops biennial lift checks, inspections now just once a year

Oct 08, 2012, 06:53 IST | Samarth Moray and Kainaz Choksey

State government tells Bombay High Court it intends to amend law because of staff crunch

Ever felt fidgety while riding a lift? Well, the government is about to give you one more reason to take the stairs. During the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) the state government’s counsel informed Bombay High Court that it proposed to amend the law requiring biannual lift inspections — and conduct checks once a year.

Niveya Nadar
Downside: Cops take away the body of (inset) six-year-old Niveya Nadar, who was killed in a lift accident in 2010. file pics

Terming the order ‘shameful’, former IAS officer and lift accident victim PC Singhi said, “This is an important public issue since most people use lifts. Housing societies always tend to keep their lifts in poor repair, as no managing committee is willing to spend money. Though lift maintenance forms part of most society bills, the inspector never comes. It is all on paper.” In 2009, Singhi fell in the pit of a lift shaft on the ground floor and was knocked unconscious. He successfully sued the lift manufacturer, receiving Rs 85,000 as compensation.

“Lift inspections should happen once every three months. What happened to my daughter should not happen to anyone else. If checks are conducted only once a year, more people are bound to die,” said Nelson Anthony Nadar, who lost his six-year-old daughter Niveya in a lift mishap in 2010. The girl’s foot got stuck between the two panels of the door. When the lift was called to a lower floor, it crushed her, killing the child instantly.

Advocate Sandeep Jalan, who represented the petitioners in the PIL, said, “We would like to appeal the decision, but lack resources to approach Supreme Court. I am not pleased with the order.”

Speaking to MiD DAY, Advocate Pradeep Havnur said, “The petitioners ought to put the state government to terms by sending a letter directing it to carry out the proposed amendment in a time-bound manner, and hold the government responsible for any lift-related mishaps that happen subsequently.”

An affidavit filed by BMC on September 25 this year stated that a total of only 86 assistant engineers, grade II/sectional engineers/junior engineers were available for examination of lifts. Their superiors – 12 deputy executive engineers and 2 executive engineers – act in a supervisory capacity. The affidavit claimed that in the period 2012-13, inspection of 81,468 lifts in Maharashtra would be completed at least annually.

According to the petitioner Mohammed Afzal, about 5,500 new lifts are installed in the state every year.

However, the quarter from April-June 2012 saw 11,853 lift inspections in Mumbai, Thane and Pune. The court noted, “[The state submitted] that since hardly about 13,000 lifts were inspected in the first quarter of this year it will not be possible for them to complete even one inspection a year of all the lifts in the state.” However, lawyers for the state assured the court that by March 31, 2013, all lifts in Maharashtra would be inspected once a year.

The Bombay Lifts Act, 1939, however, requires checks twice a year, which Afzal had pointed out to the court. According to Afzal, the number of lift inspectors is inadequate to conduct the number of examinations the law currently required. Additional Government Pleader Geeta Shastri informed the court that various other states had revised and reduced the frequency of lift inspection, making it either once a year or once in three years. A similar amendment has been proposed by the chief engineer (electrical) of Public Works Department.

The court’s order, delivered on September 27, observed, “[The petitioner] submits that since the Act is not amended as yet, the respondents have failed in discharging their statutory duties. Having regard to the fact that the proposal for moving amendment of the Bombay Lifts Act is pending consideration of the state government, we are of the view that the government cannot be prevented from taking any steps for amendment.”

Lift inspections in other states
Delhi Lifts and Escalators Bill, 2010 (proposed):  Once a year
The Gujarat Lifts and Escalator Act, 2000: Once in three years
The West Bengal Lifts and Escalators Act, 1955: Once a year
The Tamil Nadu Lift Act, 1997: Once a year
The Haryana Lift and Escalator Act, 2008: Once in three years

What the law says
As per section 11 of Bombay Lifts Act, 1939, every lift shall be inspected at least once in six months through a person designated by the state government. An annual fee at such rate as may be prescribed shall be charged for such inspection and such fee shall include the charges for the inspection of the motor.

Work to be carried out during inspections includes examining ropes and their attachments, lubricating moving parts like door locks and gears, and examining safety equipment. 

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