Monday, January 27, 2014

Record Rs 6cr payout for lift accident in Delhi

The Nation Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission directing a payout of a record Rs 5.90 crore compensation to the next of kin of a Delhi man who died in a lift mishap a decade ago has given a great boost to the cause of several consumers and lawyers fighting similar battles between the city's consumer forums. 

Last week the national commission had directed OTIS, RAW and Military Engineering Services (MES) to pay the compensation to the family of Vipin Handa (46), Director with the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) who was crushed to death after the stalled lift that he was being helped out of starting moving downwards. On March 20, 2003 Handa was in the lift with 12 other officers after finishing a meeting at the Research Analysis Wing (RAW) office, Lodhi Road, Delhi when it stalled between the seventh and sixth floors. While one person was rescued just before Handa, the others got out of the lift when it opened on the sixth floor. 

In 2005, his wife Rashmi Handa and two children Shristi and Kshitij filed the complaint before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. A technical committee had concluded that the lift had stalled due to voltage fluctuation. Further it said that when Handa was being rescued somebody had entered the Machine Room on the 11th floor and released the lift brakes through the Brake Release Key. This prompted the lift to move downwards. "Releasing the brakes through the Brake Release Key is the only cause of accident and is due to the human error or factor beyond any element of doubt," the commission concluded. While OTIS was held responsible for installing the lift without a voltage stabilizer, RAW was held guilty for not insisting on the stabilizer, failing to ensure that the contract for maintaining the lift was being followed through and turning a blind eye to the complaints received against the manufacturer. 

Otis India said that it deeply regretted Handa's death. "At Otis, safety is of paramount importance to us and we stay committed to ensuring safe and secure rides to millions of people using our elevators and escalators around the world on a daily basis. The unfortunate incident occurred due to unauthorized release of lift brakes while the customer's personnel were trying to move passengers out of the lift. We are examining details of the order and will take the necessary course of action." 

Reacting to the verdict activist and lawyer Shirish Deshpande said that the message was now loud and clear to all parties involved and they will not play with people's lives. "The Consumer Protection Act is a system correcting law and this judgement will go a long way to ensure that manufactures maintenance personnel and buildings where lifts installed will carry out their duties. Such compensation will send a strong signal to those who do not take their job seriously," 

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