The Centre has shot down a Tamil Nadu government order that allowed full occupancy in movie theatres, directing the state to fall in line with the 50 per cent occupancy cap protocol.
In a letter, the Ministry of Home Affairs also reminded the state government that it cannot dilute central guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act.
The Tamil Nadu government’s Revenue Department had Monday allowed complete occupancy in theatres following a demand from the film industry owing to festivities such as Pongal, when new movies are released. The move, however, had raised eyebrows within the government itself, with the state Health Ministry expressing reservations about the move at a time when a mutant coronavirus strain had entered the country. Tamil Nadu currently has 7,665 active Covid-19 cases.
#COVID19 risk multiplies with each risk factor – indoors, poor ventilation, more time spent, crowding, speaking/ shouting and lack of mask – cumulative effect means red zone – highest chance of spread of #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/6uxA1qSmBm
— Prabhdeep Kaur (@kprabhdeep) January 5, 2021
“The Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN)… has permitted to increase the seating capacity of cinemas/ theatres/ multiplexes from existing 50% capacity to 100% by following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This amounts to dilution of MHA Order dated 28th December, 2020 issued under the DM Act, 2005,” the Home Ministry letter stated.
Written by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, it said that guidelines issued by MHA have specifically mentioned that state and Union Territory governments cannot “dilute guidelines issued under the DM Act, 2005 in any manner and shall strictly enforce the same”.
Multiple guidelines issued by the Centre since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have said that states can make lockdowns stricter but cannot give more relaxations than those provided by the Centre.
The letter has also drawn Tamil Nadu’s attention the Supreme Court’s directions on “strict enforcement of guidelines/ SOPs issued by Union/ State Governments; strict compliance on COVID-appropriate behaviour such as, wearing of masks, keeping social distancing etc.; stern action against those who are violating guidelines/ SOPs; regulation of gatherings etc.”
“In view of the above, GoTN is requested to immediately issue necessary Order to bring their guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines dated 28th December, 2020 and inform compliance to this Ministry,” the letter said.