Cinema hall owners can restrict outside food, beverages, rules Supreme Court

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At a Supreme Court hearing today on whether people can take food to cinema halls, the judges remarked at one point, “Should we start bringing jalebis to the movies?”
The court was hearing a petition that called for a ban on food from outside at cinemas. Cinema halls and multiplexes have the right to set terms and conditions and decide whether to allow food and beverages from outside, the Supreme Court ruled.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha set aside a Jammu and Kashmir High Court order that had removed the ban on people carrying their own food and water in theatres.

“The cinema hall is not a gym that you need healthy food. It is a place of entertainment. A cinema hall is private property. It is for the owner to decide subject to statutory rules. Saying that arms are not allowed or that no discrimination on basis of caste or gender can be there, is fine. But how can the High Court say that they can bring any food inside cinema halls?”

The judges said the High Court had overstepped its brief and asserted that cinemas have already been directed to provide, especially for children, free food and clean water. Whether or not to watch a movie is the choice of the viewer and once they enter the cinema hall, they have to abide by the management’s rules, they said.

The arguments took a hilarious turn when the judges tried to explain that point.

“Suppose someone starts getting jalebis inside the cinema hall then the theatre’s management can stop them. If the viewer wipes his sticky fingers on the seats, then who will pay for the cleaning? People can also bring tandoori chicken. Then there will be complaints of bones left in the hall. That could also bother people. No one is forcing them to buy popcorn,” said Chief Justice Chandrachud.

“For water we can make a concession that free water be provided at movie theatres. But suppose they sell nimbu paani for Rs 20, you can’t say I’ll go buy my nimbu from outside and squeeze it in a flask and make it inside the theatre.”

The Chief Justice shared an anecdote from the time he, as Bombay High Court Chief Justice, heard a case related to adult films shown after 11 pm on TV.

“The aim was to enable adults to watch these films after the children went to sleep,” he said, sharing his conversation with a fellow judge.

“I asked the judge whether he had ever watched a movie after 11 pm. He said never, that is too late,” the Chief Justice grinned. It is children who stay up late, both the judges remarked.

Today’s case dates back to July 18, 2018 when the Jammu and Kashmir High Court set aside a ban on food and drinks from outside in movie theatres. Because of the ban, people are forced to consume whatever is sold at the theatre, the High Court had said.

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