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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that cinema hall management could prohibit outside food and drinks inside the movie theatre. However, the court further added that all cinema halls must provide hygienic drinking water for free.

Cinema Hall owners can PREVENT moviegoers from carrying outside food items, says Supreme Court

Cinema Hall owners can PREVENT moviegoers from carrying outside food items, says Supreme Court

For the unversed, the debate started when the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed owners of multiplexes/cinema halls of the state not to prohibit cinemagoers from carrying their own food articles and water inside the theatre. Later, the apex court was approached against this impugned judgement of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The counsel for the original petitioner submitted that the cinema ticket represents a contract between a moviegoer and the theatre and in absence of prohibition printed on the ticket, outside food could not be prohibited. However, the bench was not convinced. Justice PS Narasimha noted, “The basic premise is that cinema has a right to reserve admission. The cinema owners have a right to sell their own food and beverages.”

Meanwhile, CJI DY Chandrachud added, “A cinema hall is a private property. What goes in is for the owner of the property to decide subject to statutory rules. So, saying that arms are not allowed or no discrimination on the basis of caste or gender can be fine. But how can the High Court say that they can bring any food inside cinema halls? Suppose someone starts getting jalebis. The owner would not want anyone wiping their hands on the seats. It’s his right. He may not want the tandoori chicken to be bought in. No one is forcing them to buy popcorn. But the owner has a right. For water, we can make a concession that free water be provided at movie theatres but at the same time you can’t say that 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 court also noted that the fundamental aspect which needed to be considered was that trade and business of conducting cinema business were subject to regulations by the State. Concluding the same, CJI DY Chandrachud said, “The property of the cinema hall is the private property of the owner of the hall. The owner is entitled to set terms and conditions so long as such terms and conditions are not contrary to the public interest, safety, and welfare. The owner is entitled to set terms for the sale of food and beverages. Moviegoers have the choice to not purchase the same. The High Court transgressed the limits on the exercise of its jurisdiction. Absent is the statutory rule to that effect. The imposition of such directions would affect the legitimate rights of theatre owners.”

At the same time, the bench reiterated that cinemas had to provide hygienic drinking water for free to moviegoers. It added, “It is also reiterated that when an infant accompanies a parent, cinema owners shall not object.”

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