Cinemagoers across the country won’t have to shell out big bucks for bottled water anymore after the national consumer court ruled on Thursday that movie theatres were obligated to provide drinking water facilities inside halls.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission said theatre owners could be held liable for unfair trade practices or “deficiency of service” if they didn’t have drinking water facilities and forced consumers to buy expensive bottles from their cafeteria.
“Water being a basic necessity for human beings, it is obligatory for cinema halls to make it available to moviegoers if they don’t allow drinking water to be carried inside halls. In fact, a moviegoer may even faint if he does not get water in time,” the commission said.
“If drinking water is available from the cafeteria, that would not be enough, considering the high cost of the water sold in halls. Not everyone may be in a position to afford such a huge price, which is many times more than the price at which it is available outside the halls.”
The ruling came on an appeal filed by Agartala-based Rupasi Multiplex against an order of the Tripura State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission that said not providing free drinking water to movie goers amounted to a deficiency of service.
In September 2014, the Tripura state commission directed the multiplex to pay `10,000 to a family as compensation for deficiency of service and an additional `1,000 as cost of litigation. The family wasn’t allowed to carry their own water inside the cinema hall.
The multiplex contended before the NCDRC that it could not allow moviegoers to carry their own water inside due to security considerations.
The bench said while the security of cinemas couldn’t be compromised, a moviegoer — who may be an old person or a child — couldn’t be expected to remain without water for three hours.
Not providing water would be a deficiency in rendering services because consumers pay money to watch the movie in a comfortable and satisfying environment, it added.
“Appropriate water purifiers need to be installed with water coolers so that the water available is free from the impurities. Disposable glasses in sufficient quantity need to be kept available,” said the NCDRC bench headed by justice VK Jain.
Theatre management should ensure water supply is available through regularly-serviced coolers before the movie as well as through the course of the film, the NCDRC said.
“If for any reason water supply is not available on a particular day, alternative arrangements for free potable drinking water to cinemagoers need to be made available by the owners,” said the NCDRC.