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Cinema Theatres are privately owned, and moviegoers are entitled to bring in outside food and drinks can be regulated: SC

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that movie theatres have the power to establish rules for the sale of food and drinks inside the theatres and to prohibit people from bringing food inside from the outside.

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A court panel presided over by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud ruled that a cinema hall owner has the authority to control the entry of food and drink into the theatre. The court’s panel, which included Justice P.S. Narasimha, noted that moviegoers go to the theatre for enjoyment and that it is fully up to them whether they choose to consume what is offered. The bench said orally that as theatres are privately owned, the owner can determine whether to impose a prohibition. The owner can complain if someone wishes to bring “jalebi” into the theatre because after eating it, they might accidentally destroy the chair by wiping their hands on it. It was said that as long as the terms and conditions are not in conflict with the public interest or safety, the owner of the movie theatre is free to impose them as he sees proper.

The operators of multiplexes and movie theatres in the state of Jammu and Kashmir had been ordered by the court not to forbid moviegoers from bringing their own food and water into the theatre. The proprietors of movie theatres appealed the high court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

Senior attorney K.V. Viswanathan argued that because movie theatres were private assets, they have reserved entrance privileges and prohibitions, which helped maintain security and were also common at airports. The initial petitioner’s attorney argued that since the prohibition is not mentioned on the ticket, outside food could not be forbidden because the movie ticket constitutes a contract between a moviegoer and the movie theatre.

The court ruled that the theatre has the right to set admission prices and that its owners are entitled to offer their own food and drinks. It further questioned how the Supreme Court could rule that people could bring any food inside movie theatres. The bench further stated that while food for newborns is permitted inside the premises and that everyone has access to free, sanitary drinking water, not all food is permitted. It went on to say that it doesn’t need to be emphasised that the state’s ability to make rules must be compatible with the owners of movie theatres’ fundamental freedom to conduct business, trade, etc.

The high court’s directive to multiplexes and movie theatres not to forbid moviegoers from bringing their own food and beverages into movie theatres was overruled by the top court, which claimed that the high court had exceeded the bounds of its authority.

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