Madras High Court: Opining that “Cinema Hall, which seeks to prohibit carrying of drinking water inside the Cinema Hall for security reasons, must necessarily provide free potable and pure drinking water” S.M. Subramaniam, J., held that, in case the owner of Cinema Hall does not provide the same, owner will be liable to pay compensation.
Present petition was to seek direction to stop Hindustan Coca Cola Company along with Cinema Theatre Corporate Company from fixing high prices to their products than actual fixed market price and selling the same in Cinema Theaters in Chennai and Tamil Nadu at an excessive additional price by swindling people’s money and the same to be forfeited by Government and to be sent to Treasury and registering cases against respondents.
Petitioner went to see a film along with his family in S2 Cinema Theatre, wherein the audience was not allowed to bring snacks, potable drinks and even drinking water inside the premises. They were forced to buy snacks, beverages and drinking water from the Food Stalls located inside the premises of Theatres in Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
During intermission, when the petitioner went to purchase water and mazaa mango, he felt that the prices were much higher than the open market. Therefore, he asked about the price of the Cinema Theatre Management, and they refused to reply to the petitioner.
On enquiring with various Online Companies and calling the Hindustan Coca Cola Company Customer Care to ascertain the price of the above-stated products, petitioner realized that the S2 Cinema Theatre and Hindustan Coca Cola Company were jointly swindling huge sums of money from the general public by charging exorbitant money over actual price fixed by government while selling the products.
Petitioner contended that the act of selling the same product at two different prices at two different places that too by printing prices over the bottle made it clear that the said Hindustan Coca Cola Company along with S2 Cinema Theatre Corporate Company had swindled huge sums of money from the general public by marketing and selling the consumer products. The petitioner stated that the Company was also involved in huge sums of fraud and therefore, actions are to be initiated.
Analysis, Law and Decision
High Court opined that security consideration may prevail upon the Cinema owners to prohibit carrying of drinking water from the market inside the Cinema Hall. Sometimes undesirable elements may carry alcoholic drinks or even water mixed with acid inside the Cinema Halls.
A Cinema Hall, which seeks to prohibit carrying of drinking water inside the Cinema Hall for security reasons, must necessarily provide free potable and pure drinking water through water coolers installed inside the Cinema Halls, before such a prohibition can be enforced.
Disposable glasses in sufficient quantity need to be kept available near the water coolers. It has also to be ensured that the water supply is actually available through the water coolers before the movie starts as well as throughout the screening of the movie including intervals. If for any reason, water supply is not available on a particular day, alternative arrangements for supply of free pure and potable drinking water for the cinema-goers needs to be made available by the owners of the Cinema Hall. The Cinema Hall is also required to ensure that the water coolers as well as water purifiers remain fully functional and are regularly serviced from time to time so that only purified water is dispensed through the water coolers. If this is not done, the owner of the Cinema Hall would be liable to pay appropriate compensation for the deficiency in rendering services to the cinema-goers.
Mere availability of the drinking water would not be sufficient to enforce prohibition of carrying drinking water inside the Cinema Halls. Purified drinking water with prescribed standards must be provided, to satisfy the requirements.
Bench further while expressing that mere efflux of time cannot be a ground to deny justice on the parties, stated that for purchase of drinking water bottles, snacks, etc., at higher price, illegalities, if any, committed cannot be condoned merely on the ground of delay.
Since the petitioner is still interested in proving his case before the Authorities, Court naturally has to give an opportunity to the petitioner to establish his case.
“Right of the Citizen” to establish his case is a constitutional right, which cannot be denied by the Court.”
Bench while proceeding to analyze the matter further stated that the department officials were duty-bound to conduct periodical and surprise inspections in all the Cinema theatres across the State of Tamil Nadu.
On receiving several complaints in the public domain and certain nature of illegalities and irregularities in Cinema Theaters, the authorities must conduct inspections to find out the truth.
- Petitioner to submit the complaints before the 5th respondent / Joint Commissioner, Department of Legal Metrology. In the event of receiving the copy of the complaints/representations, the 5th respondent is directed to conduct an appropriate enquiry by affording an opportunity to all the parties concerned.
- Respondents 1 to 5 are directed to conduct inspection through the jurisdictional Subordinate officials across the State of Tamil Nadu.
- The 5th respondent is directed to ensure that the complaints submitted by the public is enquired into immediately and appropriate actions are taken.
In view of the above, petition was allowed. [G. Devarajan v. Chief Secy., 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 5412, decided on 1-10-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For Petitioner: Mr G. Devarajan (Party-in-Person)
For Respondents 1 to 5: Mr C. Kathiravan, Government Advocate.
For Respondents 7 and 8: Mr Satish Parasaran, Senior Counsel assisted by Mr Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.
For Respondent 6: No Appearance