Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Supreme Court says cinema hall owner can prohibit movie-goers from carrying own food inside theatres

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The Supreme Court today ruled that a cinema hall was the private property of its owner, who had the right to prohibit movie-goers from carrying their own food and beverages inside the theatre.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha directed all Cinema Halls to provide clean drinking water for all movie-goers free of cost in theatres.

The Apex Court further told the movie theatre owners to permit the parents to carry outside food for infants or small kids in cinema halls.

A petition was filed in the top court of the country challenging the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s verdict that directed the owners of multiplexes/cinema halls to allow the movie-goers from carrying their own food articles and water inside the theatre.

Senior Advocate K.V. Vishwanathan, representing the appellants, said that cinema halls were private properties, and owners could reserve admission rights.

The Counsel appearing for the appellants said that these types of prohibitions ensured security and were prevalent in airports, amongst other places.

The advocate added that the Jammu and Kashmir Cinema (Regulations) Rules 1975 did not provide that a movie goer should be allowed to bring eatables inside theatres.

The appellant further said that there was no compulsion on anyone to visit cinema theatres or purchase food, but whosoever clarified that all cinema halls had provisions to make available hygienic water for movie goers and that the guardians were allowed to bring in food for infants for the duration of their visit.

The counsel for the original petitioner submitted that the cinema ticket represented a contract between a movie goer and the theatre and in absence of prohibition printed on the ticket, outside food could not be prohibited.

The basic premise said that the cinema has a right to reserve admission. The cinema owners have a right to sell their own food and beverages.

It was for the owner to decide what could be brought inside the cinema hall, subject to statutory rules. Saying that arms were not allowed or no discrimination on the basis of caste or gender could be there, he added.

The CJI wondered how could the High Court permit movie-goers to bring any food inside cinema halls.

He exemplified by saying that if a person brought jalebis inside the cinema hall, the owner would not want anyone wiping their hands with the seats. It was his right. The owner may not want tandoori chicken to be bought inside his cinema hall.

The CJI further said that no one could force the movie-goers to buy popcorn. But, the owner had a right. For water, he said a concession could be made that free water be provided at movie theatres but at the same time, it can’t be said that suppose they sell nimbu paani (lemonade) for Rs 20, a person cannot say that he will buy lemon from outside and squeeze it in a flask and make it inside theatre.

Accordingly, the court noted that the fundamental aspect which needed to be considered was that the trade and business of conducting cinema business was subject to Regulations by the State, in this case, the 1975 Rules.

The Bench found that the Rules contained no mandate compelling the owner to allow a movie-goer to get food in cinema.

While dictating the order, CJI Chandrachud said that a cinema hall was the private property of the owner.

The owner had all the rights entitled to set terms and conditions so long as such terms and conditions were not contrary to public interest, safety and welfare, added the CJI.

He said the owner was entitled to set terms for the sale of food and beverages, adding that a movie-goer had the choice not to purchase the same.

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