The Tamil Nadu government Friday scrapped its decision to allow full occupancy in cinemas and restored the centrally-mandated cap of 50 per cent. This came hours after the Madras High Court temporarily stayed the original order, and days after the Centre pulled up the state for “diluting” Covid-19 protocol.
In a statement, the government said the reversal was made “considering the safety of people”, but also tried to justify its earlier decision by citing a fall in Covid-19 cases in the state.
The order allowing 100 per cent occupancy came after actor Vijay met Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with this request ahead of the January 13 release of his much-hyped film Master. Another major Tamil film, Silambarasan-starrer Eswaran, is scheduled to release on January 14. Both dates fall around the Pongal festive period.
With public health experts questioning the wisdom of allowing theatres to run at full capacity, the Union Home Secretary on January 5 wrote to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, reminding him that the state cannot dilute central guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act.
And as the Madras High Court Friday put a stay on the easing of occupancy norms till January 11, the government finally acted.
Hearing a batch of three petitions, a High Court division bench said: “We are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic situation which does not bother about the economic factors and territories such as district, state or country.”
“We hope and trust that the state government would reconsider the issue in the right perspective,” the bench said. It adjourned the matter to January 11 after the government’s counsel sought time to reply.
Quoting the petitioners, the judges also asked the state government to consider ideas such as increasing the number of shows while ensuring that cinemas are sanitised.
S Thanu, president of the Film Federation of India, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah two days ago saying the 50 per cent occupancy rule in cinemas was not “feasible and economically viable”.