“Why are the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Rules 2017 Not Implemented?”: Madras High Court to Government of Tamil Nadu

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As per reports, a Public Interest Litigation (“PIL”) has been filed before the Madras High Court seeking measures to address the issue of overpricing of movie tickets in theatres and to ensure that Rajnikanth’s upcoming ‘2.0’, ‘Petta’ and Ajith’s ‘Viswasam’ can be exhibited only at the pricing prescribed by the government.

The PIL filed by G. Devarajan (“Petitioner”) on November 19, 2018 against 59 respondents including the Additional Chief Secretary (Home Department), Revenue Administration Commissioner and district collectors of Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram; came up for hearing before a Division Bench presided by Justices Rajamanickam and Sathyanarayanan on November 27, 2018.

The Petitioner alleged that the theatres in the state of Tamil Nadu levy exorbitant prices on movie tickets predominantly those featuring a famous star cast during the initials days of screening. Particularly, with respect to three forthcoming releases, Rajinikanth’s 2.0 and Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam, the Petitioner prayed to the Court for a direction to the Government to ensure exhibition in compliance with the ticket pricing rules [Amendments to Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Rules, 1957] introduced to keep a check on movie ticket prices and to take strict action against those who fail to adhere to the same.

In view of the same, the Court posed queries to the Government of Tamil Nadu pertaining to non-implementation of the pricing regulation rules of 2017 and also enquired about the status of the regulatory committee constituted with the mandate to oversee pricing of cinema tickets. The Court has sought the response of the Tamil Nadu Government in respect of the same. The next date of hearing of the matter is on December 19, 2018.

Interestingly, the Petitioner had earlier filed similar PILs before the Madras High Court seeking adherence to the cinema ticket pricing norms with respect to release of movies such as Suriya’s Singam 3, Vijay’s Bairavaa and Mersal and Ajith’s Vivegam, both pending before the Court, as on date.

Previously in 2016, the Madras High Court had directed the Tamil Nadu State Government to constitute a special team charged with the responsibility to monitor excess admission fee levied by cinema theatres and set up a mechanism for receiving complaints about over pricingby setting up a helpline number for the same.

The Government of Tamil Nadu via order dated October 6, 2017 (“Government Order”), revised the rates of admission for cinema theatres by 25% over base price as specified below with effect from October 9, 2017 under the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Rules, 1957. The revisions were made in accordance with the recommendations of a high level committee (“Committee”) constituted to examine issues relevant to the cinema industry including the request made by cinema associations to revise the rates of cinema tickets. Apart from secretaries of government departments, the Committee also included representatives of the Tamil Film Chamber of Commerce and the Tamil Film Producers Council.

The Government Order has laid a few ground rules for fixing movie ticket prices, as follows:

Category Minimum (in Rupees) Maximum (in Rupees)
A/c Theatre Non-A/c Theatre A/c Theatre Non-A/c Theatre
Municipal Corporations 15/- 10/- 62.50/- 37.50/-
Municipalities 10/- 10/- 50/- 37.50/-
Town Panchayats 10/- 10/- 31.25/- 25/-
Village Panchayats 10/- 10/- 18.75/- 15/-
     
Multiplex having inter alia two or more AC theatres, minimum 800 seat capacity, 100% power back-up by Generators, Xenon or Digital Projectors and Digital Sound System or DTS 15/- 106.30/-
Multiplex having in addition to the facilities of the multiplex above inter alia surround speakers system, computer and web ticketing, home delivery of tickets and fulfilling prescribed seat width and row spacing specifications. 15/- 118.80/-
Multiplex having more than three theaters with AC, family entertainment and restaurant facilities 15/- 150/-

 

In the past, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had also issued directions to the Madurai District Collector calling for stringent action to be taken against theatre complexes and cinema halls levying exorbitant prices for tickets for the much anticipated Diwali release of the movie “Sarkar”, in violation of the Government Order. The directions were issued by a division bench of Justice T Raja and Justice Krishnan Ramasamy after a petition was filed by P Mahendra Pandi [WMP (MD) 20234 of 2018] alleging that theatres in Madurai district flouted pricing norms by charging as high as Rs. 500 for a movie ticket. The Court directed the authorities to cancel the licence of the erring theatres.

However, certain theatres in Madurai levied exorbitant ticket prices for “Sarkar” in total disregard to the directions of the Court. Hence, a contempt petition [CONT P(MD) 1800 of 2018] was filed by P Mahendra Pandi. As per reports, a Division Bench comprising of Justices K.K. Sasidharan and P.D. Audikesavalu on November 26, 2018 has issued directions to the Madurai Collector to file a report on the action taken against errant theatre owners. Additionally, the Bench has ordered the theatres to submit their daily collection records between November 6, 2018 and November 16, 2018. The next hearing of this  matter is scheduled on December 6, 2018.

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