Move to allow 100% occupancy in cinemas, movie theatres in Tamil Nadu amid COVID-19 challenged in Madras High Court

When the matter was mentioned this morning, the Court today declined to take it up on an urgent basis, opining that it can be heard in due course.
Move to allow 100% occupancy in cinemas, movie theatres in Tamil Nadu amid COVID-19 challenged in Madras High Court
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The Tamil Nadu government's recent order allowing cinema theatres and multiplexes to function at 100% seating capacity has been challenged before the Madras High Court.

The PIL moved by an advocate practicing at the High Court, PS Prabhu contends that the Tamil Nadu government's January 4 Order (GO) violates the Union Health Ministry's COVID-19 guidelines. The Union Ministry's guidelines permit only up to 50% capacity seating in cinemas or film theatres/multiplexes in areas outside COVID-19 containment zones.

The petitioner goes on to highlight that increasing the seating capacity in film theatres to 100% would cause people to sit next to each other in a closed environment where air conditioning is used. This would increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and also add to the severe workload and strain borne by doctors, nurses, hospitals, staff, sanitary workers and other public workers. The relaxation would pose a serious threat to life and the people in Tamil Nadu, the petitioner asserts.

While the petitioner sought to move a lunch motion this morning so that the matter may be heard today, the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy declined to entertain the plea on an urgent basis. The Court opined that the matter can be taken up in due course.

With more matters being mentioned, Chief Justice Banerjee also orally observed that a system should be put in place so that matters are heard chronologically. Earlier matters should come first, later matters should be taken up later, he remarked before proceeding to take up the regular hearing list for the day.

The Tamil Nadu government took the decision to allow 100% occupancy in cinemas and film theatres days after prominent Kollywood Actors such as Vijay and Silambarasan made requests for the same, reported the Newsminute. It is reported that Vijay had met with the Chief Minister to discuss the issue last week.

A day after the controversial GO was issued by the Tamil Nadu government, the Centre through Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla had written to the State raising concerns that the State government's decision entailed a dilution of the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The January 5 letter directed the State to issue necessary orders to bring its guidelines in line with the MHA's guidelines and inform the Centre about its compliance stating that dilution of MHA guidelines cannot be allowed.

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