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SC stays JK HC order allowing cinemagoers to carry outside food


New Delhi, Aug 10: Should I be allowed to carry my whiskey in Taj Hotel and order for soda there, asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi as he pressed for an immediate stay of an order that allowed cinemagoers to carry their own food and water inside the theatres. Rohatgi said if the order by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court is replicated across the country, there will be a complete breakdown of these private entities. He wondered how the High Court could pass such an order citing cases of pregnant women who would want to carry their own food inside. “They jolly well not go to watch movies at all,” argued Rohatgi. A bench of Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Indu Malhotra seemed prima facie satisfied with the arguments of Rohatgi and stayed the order by the J&K High Court on food and water. “We will stay only this direction. You (petitioners before the HC) file your counter affidavit in four weeks,” said the bench. Justice Nariman, during the brief hearing, also recalled a similar instance of an air carrier prohibiting the passengers from carrying their own food and water in the flight. The judge wanted to know whether there are any statutory rules that impose such restrictions. “These are cinema halls. Rules have to provide for movies and not food. This is why absence of rules doesn’t mean anybody can carry anything inside,” retorted Rohatgi, who appeared for the Multiplex Association of India. Senior advocate AM Singhvi also opposed the HC order, saying the entry tickets had conditions to restrict people from carrying private articles inside. “The High Court has completely ignored aspects of safety and hygiene. There have been blasts in cinema halls too. How are we supposed to scan thousands of people who turn up five minutes before the screening?” said the lawyers. Persuaded by their arguments, the bench stayed the HC order and fixed the matter for hearing after six weeks. A similar case is currently being argued before the Bombay High Court as well, which had a day ago said it would wait for the Supreme Court to take up the matter from J&K High Court. In July, the J&K HC had held that such restrictions by multiplex or cinema hall owners are against the right to choice of food, including the right not to eat junk food and right to good health, which comes under the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This order was issued on a PIL by two lawyers there.