CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to constitute a special team to monitor collection of excess entrance fees by cinema theatres, inform the public through proper publicity and evovle a methodology of giving such complaints telephonically to the team.
The first bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh gave the direction on Thursday while disposing of a PIL from one G Devarajan and hoped that the team would take proper action.
The PIL prayed for a direction to the authorities concerned to take action against cinema house owners, who have collected excess charges while showing new movies such as Yennai Arindhal, Puli, Vedalam, Thoongavanam and Thangamagan. The petition wanted the court to restrain them from cheating the cinema goers by collecting more than the government-fixed charges and showing extra shows and to stop the online booking and selling of movie tickets by Ticket New and Ticket Green, who allegedly colluded with cinema theatre owners with a view to enabling the theatre owners to collect excess charges.
Rule 83(1A) (a) of TN Cinema (Regulation) Rules, 1957 empowers the Licensing Authroty to fix the rates of admission for each class in the theatre, taking into account the prevailing rates of admission in similar theatres in similar localities within its jurisdiction and any other relevant factor. The government is stated to have issued two GOs in this regard. The first GO is only revision of rates earlier provided which has been issued on May 20, 2009. The rules were amended to provide maximum and minimum rates of admission to A/C theatres and non-A/C theatres as also in multiplexes provided with special amenities.
It is not disputed that the maximum rate provided is Rs 120 and the only exception is IMAX theatres in view of the GO dated January 6, 2015 where the maximum has been provided as Rs 480.
The aforesaid being the position, the petitioner had made five representations during 2015 giving materials to support his allegation that the maximum limit was not being followed. In this behalf, an extract from the website has also been given showing tickets of Rs 300 and Rs 250. The breakup shows the ticket cost as Rs 200 with service provider fee of Rs 20 and service tax totaling Rs 223. As an illustration, there is no quibble with the imposition of service provider fee or the tax, but the question is whether when the maximum charge is provided as Rs 120, Rs 200 can be imposed. Even, according to counsel for the authorities, the answer to this query would be in the negative.
“On the conspectus of the matter, we are of the view that in sofaras legal position is concerned, there is no dispute. However, much is left to be done at the ground level, as obviously there are various violations, the bench said. We thus direct the respondents to constitute a special team to monitor the aspects of such violations,’’ the bench said and disposed of the PIL.