Hyderabad: The Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed INOX Kachiguda to pay a fine of Rs 1.05 lakh for not starting the movie as per the time mentioned on the tickets.
The commission asked the multiplex to pay Rs.1 lakh to the commissioner of police, Hyderabad city, as punitive damage, Rs.5,000 as compensation to the complainant for causing inconvenience and mental agony, and Rs.5,000 to the complainant as the cost of litigation.
Vijay Gopal visited INOX to watch the Telugu film 'Game Over' on 22 June 2019. The ticket showed the movie was to start at 4:30 p.m but the multiplex started the movie at 4:45 p.m. It spent around 15-20 minutes on advertisements and other slides.
Vijay approached the manager of the theatre and recorded his grievance in the complaint register maintained by the theatre authorities. Due to the attitude of the theatre authorities, he lost his valuable time and the theatre is making money by playing advertisements and generating higher revenue by way of displaying such advertisements, he alleged. He also approached the Hyderabad commissioner of police but they refused to file a complaint.
The multiplex said as per the Telangana Cinema Regulation Act 1955, it is an old-age practice in cinemas across the world, including India, to screen advertisements before starting the movie. It also sought the Right to Free Commercial Speech and the Right to Carry on Business as guaranteed by Article 19(1) of the Constitution. It further submitted that screening of advertisements and slides in cinemas is recognized under law as such.
Observing the argument of the multiplex, the commission said that no doubt the rights of every citizen in this country is safeguarded by the fundamental rights guaranteed. "However, with reasonable restrictions, they will be implemented without any discrimination. In the present case, the reasonable restrictions are the regulating acts under which the multiplex is carrying on its business. As such, they cannot seek any shelter under the fundamental rights by violating the regulated enactments made in this regard," said the commission.
The multiplex also said that as per the license conditions mentioned in Telangana Cinemas Regulation Rules 1970, Rule 41, the licensee, at each performance, shall, for five minutes, exhibit in such manner the slides supplied by the licensing authority free of cost as the authority may direct.
The commission on this argument pointed out that the multiplex has admitted that it is screening commercial advertisements for its maintenance and to generate income. "The screening of commercial advertisements, contrary to the rules and regulations amounts to unfair trade practice and a deficiency on the part of the multiplex towards its viewers by wasting their time and money. The rights of the consumers include that the consumers have every right to know and be informed about the product and services to be rendered to them," the commission held.
It added that mentioning the show time as 4:30 p.m and starting the movie at 4:45 p.m amounted to a deficient and unfair practice.
The Commission asked INOX to pay a compensation of Rs. 5,000 to Vijay for causing mental agony and inconvenience caused and Rs. 5000 towards the cost of litigation. It also directed the multiplex to pay Rs. 1 lakh to the licensing authority, the Hyderabad commissioner of police as punitive damages under Section 14(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.
The commission asked the theatre authorities to mention the actual time on the movie tickets and directed it to stop unfair trade practices as mentioned under Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.
The commissioner of police was directed to use the money to promote security and safety measures to be taken during disasters and fire accidents in theatres and malls and to alert and sensitize the public.
Vijay hoped that theatres will be more responsible from now and said the Hyderabad police was also ignorant about implementing some of the provisions of the law. He said that with this order, he expects that the Hyderabad police commissioner will act on the issue and protect consumers from being harassed.
He added, "But the bigger point that this case stresses upon is how everyone in India feels they are okay wasting other people's time. Because of this, people are slowly being conditioned to delays. It starts with a two or five-minute delay then escalates to 15-20 minute delay."