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Cinema Hall Owners Can Determine Whether Outside Food And Beverages Should Be Allowed Inside: SC

The apex court set aside a directive by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which had in July 2018 told multiplex and cinema owners in the then state not to prohibit moviegoers from carrying their own food and water inside the theatres.

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A PVR Cinemas employee sprays disinfectants on the seats of a cinema hall in New Delhi.
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The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the owners of cinema halls are entitled to set the terms and conditions for the sale of food and beverages and can determine whether outside food should be permitted within the theatre precincts.

The apex court set aside a directive by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which had in July 2018 told multiplex and cinema owners in the then state not to prohibit moviegoers from carrying their own food and water inside the theatres.

The bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha observed that a cinema hall is the private property of the owner, who is entitled to set conditions so long as they are not contrary to the public interest, safety and welfare.

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“Viewers visit a cinema hall for the purpose of entertainment. We are clearly of the view that the high court transgressed the limits in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution by ordering and directing the state to ensure that there should be no prohibition on a moviegoer bringing eatables and beverages from outside within the precinct of a cinema hall,” the bench said.

The top court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the directive given by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The bench said whether or not to see a movie is entirely the choice of the viewers and, if they seek to enter a cinema hall, they have to abide by the conditions subject to which entry has been granted.

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“….it is open to the theatre owner to determine as to whether food from outside the precinct of the hall should be permitted within,” the bench said, adding that it was evidently a matter of a commercial decision on the part of the theatre owner.

The bench noted that during the arguments, counsel appearing for the appellants had stated that due arrangements are made for the supply of hygienic drinking water to moviegoers without levying any charge.

The apex court said it had also been stated that when an infant or a child accompanied their parents, cinema hall owners did not object to a reasonable amount of food being carried for the child.

It observed that whether to buy food or beverages after entering the cinema hall was entirely the choice of the moviegoer.

“The property of the cinema hall constitutes the private property of the owner of the hall. The owner of the hall is entitled to have terms and conditions so long as such terms and conditions are not contrary to the public interest, safety and welfare,” it said.

Advocate Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for one of the appellants, G.S. Malls Pvt Ltd, argued that the receipts issued by theatre owners mentioned that outside food was not allowed.

The court said the owner of private property had the right to decide what could be brought in and what not, subject to rules.

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“Now, the regulation of what can be brought, what cannot be brought within the precincts of a private property… is for the owner of the property to decide, subject to statutory rules which regulate his activity,” the CJI said.

“Suppose, somebody starts getting jalebis into the cinema hall, the owner could say, ‘You eat your jalebis and wipe your hands on the seats’,” Justice Chandrachud said. “I am just giving you an example.”

The bench observed that the fundamental issue was that the business of running a cinema was subject to regulation by the state, which had framed the Jammu and Kashmir Cinemas (Regulation) Rules, 1975. It said the rules contained no mandate compelling the owner of a cinema hall to allow a moviegoer to bring food or beverages within the precinct of the theatre.

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The bench said it needed no emphasis that the rule-making power of the state had to be exercised in a manner consistent with the fundamental right of hall owners to carry on legitimate trade and business within the meaning of Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution.

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