The Maharashtra government on Friday announced that there would be no difference in the MRP of food products sold outside and inside multiplexes in the state and viewers will be free to carry their own eatables inside the multiplex.
This was announced in the legislative council by Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Ravindra Chavan. “The MRP parity for food items inside and outside the multiplexes would be effective from August 1 and the Home Department of the state government will formulate a policy to act against violators,” Chavhan said in response to a calling-attention motion tabled by Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde of the NCP.
The decision sent shares of multiplex operators tumbling, with PVR Ltd and INOX Leisure Ltd diving as much as 14.1 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, on the broader NSE index that ended slightly lower.
A senior executive of a multiplex said that the order will severely hit business. “With the new GST rates in place, about 30 per cent of the business for multiplex chains comes from sale of food and beverages,” he said.
Some police officials raised questions of security and the need for more intensive screening of customers to ensure that nothing illegal is slipped in. Said Deven Bharti, Mumbai joint commissioner of police (Law and order): “We have not received any such communication. Once received, we will examine it and communicate our view.”
Former IPS officer Y P Singh said there isn’t much for the police to do. “The malls and multiplexes have an elaborate security and they can ensure that no laws are broken.”
Munde asked why multiplex owners, owners of the food malls on highways and other such malls were charging abnormally high rates for food items. He sought to know what relief the government would provide to customers. Many other leaders including Neelam Gorhe (Shiv Sena), Sanjay Dutt (Congress), Anil Bhosale (NCP), Pravin Darekar (BJP) raised the issue. Deputy Chairman of the Council Manikrao Thakre directed the Minister to hold a meeting in his chambers with concerned legislators.
In a statement, the Multiplex Association of India said that “none of the multiplex cinema theatres operated by any of our members have received any order, notification or communication to this effect from the Government of Maharashtra or any other regulatory authority. Hence we are not aware of any decision to this effect, if taken by the Government”.
The statement further added that a public interest litigation on the matter, filed by a Mumbai resident in January, is still pending in the Bombay High Court. The Mumbai resident had filed the PIL stating that there was no legal or statutory provision prohibiting people from carrying personal food items into film theatres.
“Since the matter is currently sub judice, and since we have no other formal communication from any regulatory authority, we would not like to comment any further on the matter,” said Deepak Asher, president of the association.