'Owner's Prerogative': SC Rules In Favour Of Cinema Hall Owners On Entry Of Outside Food
In an uplifting update to cinema hall owners, the supreme court on Tuesday said that cinema theatres have complete control over terms and conditions for selling food inside their property.
The apex court ruled this while hearing a batch of appeals that theatre owners and the Multiplex Association of India had filed.
They had challenged a 2018 verdict by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court – where it said that multiplexes and theatres cannot stop the audience from bringing their own food and beverages inside the movie halls.
‘No one is forced to buy popcorn’
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha was quoted by ANI as saying, “Suppose someone starts getting jalebis. The owner would not want anyone wiping their hands on the seats.” It added that owners “may not want tandoori chicken to be bought in” and said that no cinemagoer was being forced to buy popcorn (and other food items being sold inside the cinema halls).
‘Cinema hall is a private property’
The court also said that a moviegoer has the choice of not consuming the food and beverages served inside theatres.
The court stated that a cinema hall is the owner’s private property and he has the right to roll out terms and conditions as he deems fit, provided those don’t go against public interest or safety.
“A cinema hall owner has the right to regulate the entry of food and beverage. Whether to consume what is available is entirely upon the choice of the moviegoer. Viewers visit halls for entertainment,”
CJI Chandrachud said. The supreme court said it is a matter of a commercial decision of the theatre owner.
“The cinema hall is not a gym that you need healthy food. It is a place of entertainment. It is privately owned, so it is the owner’s prerogative.”
Arguments during the hearing
During the hearing, the original petitioner’s counsel from the case before the high court argued that some uniformity must be implemented.
“The moviegoers enter into a contract with the cinema as soon as the ticket is purchased and in the absence of prohibition printed on it, food cannot be prohibited,” the counsel said.
However, senior advocate KV Viswanathan opposed this, representing cinema hall owners and submitted that the confines of cinema halls are not public property and admission to such cinema hall owners reserve it.
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A barandbench report also quoted the bench as saying, “The High Court exceeded jurisdiction in passing such an order. It has been submitted movie hall owners that drinking water will be supplied free of charge and when an infant accompanies a parent, as a matter of practice hall owners do not object to reasonable amount of food for infant.”
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