Yes, exactly. Theaters were shown ‘cinema’ by their most insensible attitude, i.e., not providing water to the audience who visits the theaters . Movie halls must provide free drinking water as it is a basic necessity and not everyone may be in a position to afford it at “exorbitant rates”, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has ruled. “A movie watcher may include old and infirm persons as well as the children for whom it would be difficult to manage without water for three hours or more.
“The water being a basic necessity for human beings, it is obligatory for the cinema hall to make it available to the movie-goers in case they decide not to allow the drinking water to be carried inside the cinema hall,” NCDRC bench headed by Justice V K Jain said.
The bench observed that water cinema owners are obligated to provide water as sometimes a consumer may even faint if he or she does not get water in time, adding that if a cinema hall while prohibiting carrying water inside fails to make portable drinking water available, “it will be an act of deficiency in rendering services to them.” When it comes to the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there are more than 3,200 single screen theaters and at about 500 multiples. Majority of them are into selling of packaged drinking water bottles and not allowing audience to enter into the theaters with water. The quantum of business, being done by theaters, in the form of selling water bottles is around 40 Crores of rupees per month.
The commission said if theater owners compel consumers to buy expensive bottles from their cafeteria, they would be held liable for unfair trade practices. “Not everyone may be in a position to afford drinking water at such a huge price, which normally is many times more than the price at which such water is available in the market outside the cinema halls. Therefore, he will be compelled to pay an exorbitant price for a basic necessity such as drinking water,” it said. It also directed that appropriate water purifiers need to be installed with the water coolers and sufficient disposable glasses. It said that the theaters must ensure that the water supply is available throughout the movie hours. “If for any reason, water supply is not available on a particular day, alternative arrangements for supply of free pure and portable drinking water to cinema-goers need to be made available by the owners of the cinema hall,” it said. The bench said if the directions were not complied with, the owner of cinema hall would be liable to pay appropriate compensation for the deficiency in rendering services to the cinema-goers. We have to see whether the theaters would oblige the directions of the commission, in both the Telugu states.