Observing that no complacency should be shown just because the number COVID-19 cases are dropping in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court on Friday ordered maintenance of status quo until further orders on the seating capacity in cinema halls which meant that the Centre’s COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) allowing 50 per cent will prevail contrary to the Tamil Nadu Government’s order allowing 100 percent from January 13.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamurthy before whom the plea came in this regard ordered status quo on recording the submission of Advocate General Vijay Narayan appearing for the State that the COVID-19 infection cases are decreasing and since the State is under control of the situation it was no longer felt necessary to continue with the restrictions and hence allowed 100 percent occupancy in theatres.
However, the bench led by the Chief Justice while ordering status quo pointed out that through the number of Covid-19 cases are dropping in the State, that cannot be the reason to be complacent and its advised that they adopt a sense of caution and not allow the situation to go out of hand.
“Don’t do anything that can trigger another bout of outbreak. We ought to be thinking of bay steps until the vaccine comes through,” Chief Justice Banerjee said.
Also, the bench on accounting for the submission of the Advocate general that orders have been passed on a similar petition allowing status quo until January 11 by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court and that it would be better if both the petitions are tagged so that there are no conflicting orders, directed the transfer of the petition to the Madurai bench as it heard the matter first.
Senior Counsel Satish Parasaran appearing for the petitioner submitted that no sooner had the Tamil Nadu Government offered the relaxation allowing 100 percent occupancy, the Central Government had written a letter seeking the Tamil Nadu Government to be in sink with the SOPs in vogue and confine to 50 percent occupancy.
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The PIL moved in this regard had contended that allowing 100 percent occupancy in theatres 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 plea said.