Immediately after the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy commenced their hearing on Thursday, a mention was made by PS Prabhum a lawyer, seeking to take up the plea for hearing after lunch as the government’s move entailed a serious violation.
However, the bench refused permission, noting that there was no urgency and that the case would be heard in due course.
The public interest litigation contended that the January 4 Government Order allowing 100 per cent occupancy in theatres was against the Union Ministry’s guidelines, which permits only up to 50 per cent capacity seating in cinemas or film theatres/multiplexes in areas outside COVID-19 containment zones.
Increasing the seating capacity to 100 per cent would make people 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.
Meanwhile, contending that the State government’s decision to increase seating capacity to 100 per cent would undo all the hard work that was done so far to contain the pandemic, a petitioner moved the Madurai bench on Thursday.
In the plea, petitioner A Bonyface recalled the various steps taken since COVID-19 cases was reported in the country, including imposing the lockdown and the stringent restrictions that were put in place. Despite the efforts, failure to follow the standard operating procedure has led to spiralling of cases and resulted in more than 1.5 lakh deaths, it said.
Now, he added, the country is facing an even bigger risk in the form of the mutated strain of coronavirus that is more virulently transmissible. The decision to allow theatres to function with full occupancy, which would encourage school and college students to throng the cinema halls, would risk creating ‘corona hubs’, he said.
The petition is slated to be heard by a division bench of Justice MM Sundresh and Justice S Ananthi on Friday.