MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Monday directed the state government and theatre owners to ensure that social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols are followed at ticket counters at theatres.
A two-member bench comprising Justices MM Sundresh and S Ananthi gave the direction taking judicial notice of visual media reports which showed 'huge and unmanageable crowd' in front of ticket counters at theatres. Since the occupancy rate in theatres has once again been reduced to 50 per cent, there would be some demand for the tickets and the public might make a beeline for ticket counters without minding Covid precautions, the judges observed and issued the above direction.
A senior counsel appearing for the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association contended that the government's decision to allow theatres to screen additional shows would in no way help them overcome the loss sustained during the pandemic.
Claiming that theatres in Noida, Delhi among others collect more than Rs 1,000 per ticket whereas the same is only Rs 150 or so in Tamil Nadu, he requested a direction to the government to permit them to increase the rates of tickets.
However, the judges opined that it is for the government to take a decision on such matters and advised the association to submit a request to the government and further directed the government to consider and take decision if such a request is made.
Appreciating the government's swift action in withdrawing its G.O. permitting theatres to open at full capacity, the judges added that the condition of allowing only 50 per cent occupancy in theatres should not be breached under any circumstances. In case of the tickets already sold, the theatre owners can accommodate such persons in the additional shows permitted, the judges suggested.
The directions were issued on a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed challenging the State government's G.O. dated January 4, 2021, permitting theatres to open at full capacity.