1. A partnership firm called Amba Enterprises owning and running newly constructed 70 M.M., 'Amba Cinema Theater' situate at Mehedipatnam, Hyderabad, is the petitioner in this Writ Petition complaining against an order passed by the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad and confirmed by the State Government holding it to be guilty of violating Condition No. 27 of the licence read with S. 10(2)(b) of the Andhra Pradesh Cinema (Regulation) Act of 1955 ('Act', hereafter).
2. On 9-8-1979, the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, who is the licensing authority under the above Act, had received a complaint with regard to the running of this theater by the petitioner. The substance of the complaint was that on 8-8-1978 motion-pictures were being exhibited in the theatre without the air-cooling apparatus functioning to full capacity causing the cine-goers discomfort and deprivation of the entertainment pleasure to which they were entitled. The complainant and his companious who visited the theatre for the first show paid at the rate of Rs. 4/- per head under tickets Nos. 4935 to 4938 and suffered this discomfort. The complainant first enquired of the manager of the theatre about the reason for the non-functioning of the air-cooling apparatus and received the customary but unsatisfactory explanation from the manager that there was a failure in supply of electricity. The complainant who is the Deputy Commissioner of Police without rejecting this explanation as irrelevant under the Act, took trouble to investigate into the truth of the petitioner's explanation. The Deputy Police Commissioner, found this explanation wholly untrue. He not only found the adjoining street lights bright but also lights within the theatre functioning normally. He therefore concluded that the failure to run the air-cooling apparatus was wilful. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, therefore, filed a complaint to the licensing authority the Commissioner of Police, alleging that the proprietor of Amba Theatre had been running the theatre contrary to condition No. 27 of the licence. On the basis of that complaint, the Commissioner of Police instituted an inquiry, issued a show cause notice to the manager of the theatre on 9th August, 1979 calling upon him to show cause why a penalty of Rs. 5,000/- in lieu of suspension of the cinematograph licence for a period of one month should not be imposed for violating the provisions of the Cinematograph Rules and more particularly, Condition No. 27 of the licensing conditions of the Cinematograph Rules of 1970. The petitioner in a lengthy reply took all sorts of contradictory objections. The petitioner complained that the show cause notice was so vague as to disable him even to give a proper reply. Yet, without prejudice to that contention (whatever that might not mean) he did submit a lengthy reply. In that reply the managing partner stated that the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Hyderabad, came at 8-15 p.m. to the theatre and assaulted the manager of the theatre within the licensed premises without any reason or rhyme; that when the first show was running there was sudden power breakdown necessitating the use of the generator for running the cinema including the air-cooling apparatus. The petitioner submitted that when the aforesaid Deputy Commissioner of Police questioned him why the air-cooling plant was not working to its capacity, the petitioner explained that as there was power breakdown the generator had to be used to do all the work. This explanation, according to the petitioner, infuriated the Deputy Commissioner of Police and led him first to assault the manager of the cinema theatre and later to file the complaint before the Commissioner of Police.
3. An examination of the reply even favourably considered in support of the petitioner shows that the petitioner in his reply did not deny altogether the charge that the air-cooling plant was not working to full capacity. The petitioner blamed the failure of supply of electricity as necessitating the use of generator that use of generator that could not run both the cineprojector and air-cooling apparatus to full capacity. The petitioner, therefore, pleaded that he did not wilfully violate the provisions of the Cinematograph Rules by not maintaining or running the apparatus as required by Condition No. 27.
4. After taking the explanation into consideration, the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, by his order dated 4-10-1979 imposed a penalty of Rs. 5,000/- on the management 'for cheating the clientele by collecting higher rates (for air-cooling) and not providing the facility of air-cooling.'
5. Against that order of the licensing authority, the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, the petitioner preferred an appeal to the Government of Andhra Pradesh under Section 10(4) of the Act. Before the Government the petitioner complained through his lawyer that the Commissioner of Police did not consider the explanation offered by the licensee and that the order of the Commissioner of Police was vitiated by the fact that it did not ex facie show any verification of the credibility of the complainant. The petitioner also complained that the licensing authority ought to have given the petitioner an opportunity to cross-examine the complainant. It was also contended that the licensing authority did not afford the petitioner adequate opportunity.
6. The Government after due consideration of the petitioner's case, dismissed the petitioner's appeal but reduced the penalty from Rs. 5,000/- to Rs. 3,000/-. The Government found that the petitioner did not offer to produce any documentary evidence before the Commissioner of Police in order to prove that the non-functioning of the air-cooling system was not result of any deliberate act on the part of the management but is the result of reasons beyond their control. It held that even agreeing that there was interruption in the functioning of the air-cooling system owing to power breakdown in the locality the generator which had been used for operating the projector should have also been put to the use of operating the air-cooling system to full capacity. In other words, the failure of the petitioner to use the generator to operate the air-cooling apparatus to full capacity was held by the Government to be wilful.
7. The government in passing noted that 'it is commonplace that the management of a number of cinema theatres in the twin cities are in the habit of switching off the air-cooling system soon after the commencement of the screening of films and restarting it, if ever, a little before the intermission and conclusion of the show with an object of saving money and power supply.' On the above basis the Government agreed with the conclusion of the Commissioner of Police that the petitioner had violated Condition No. 27 of the licence read with S. 10(2)(b) of the Act.
7A. It is against this order the present writ petition is filed.
8. Although the counsel for the petitioner raised several points in support of this Writ Petition, I consider that the real question of law arising in this case for the decision of this Court is whether or not, on the admitted facts of this case, violation of Condition No. 27 of the licensing conditions read with S. 10(2)(b) is proved.
'The cinema is one of our liveliest art forms. It also became our greatest step towards the industrialization of dreams. In its darkened temples men and women grasp at real life substitutes, find an escape valve from dreary existence, experience vicarious enjoyment of power, beauty and riches beyond their grasp. We also learn how unknown classes and distant peoples live.'
8A. In the context of our grinding poverty and mass illiteracy. Cinema is the only cheap entertainment available to our people. Like all Arts. Cinema transforms illusions into reality. Cinema provides that opium of entertainment that its patrons require daily in ever increasing doses. Both in order to produce that trance as well as to eliminate conditions positively harmful to the health of cine-goers, certain minimum conditions of physical comfort and safety are required to be observed by the theatre owners. But the theatre owner cares little for health and more for his profit. Show business is a quick money spiner without being subject to much of the traditional business discipline. The theatre owner attracts his customers to his theatre by exhibiting on the street walls the vulgar and the obscene scenes that are removed and censored from the films. He rarely runs the fans and air-cooling apparatus for which he regularly charges his clientele. His interest mainly centres round the object of increasing his receipts and cutting down his costs. It is for this reason that the air conditioning apparatus is rarely operated. For the same reason sometimes even fans are switched off in the middle of the show and mostly always even the law which requires strict maintenance of hygienic conditions in the theatre, is violated. It is against this social background that the Legislature enacted Condition No. 27 of the licensing conditions. Condition No. 27 reads as follows :-
'The licensee shall always keep the extractors, exhaust fans, ceiling fans or the air-conditioning apparatus and the like, in perfect working order and shall put them on throughout the period when the film is being exhibited and the public is seated in the auditorium.'
Section 10(2)(b) of the Act reads as follows :-
'The licensee has, without reasonable cause failed to comply with any of the provisions of this Act or of the rules made thereunder, or any of the conditions or restrictions upon or subject to which the licence has been granted, then without prejudice to any other penalty to which the licensee may be liable under this Act, the licensing authority may, after giving the licensee an opportunity of showing cause, revoke or suspend the licence.'
The meaning of these provisions of law is that the theatre owner's money making activities should not be carried on without respect to and regard for the interests of cine-goers. Condition No. 27, therefore, is couched in mandatory terms placing the cinema theatre owners under an absolute duty to keep the extractors, exhaust fans, ceiling fans and/or the airconditioning apparatus in perfect working order and in complete operation throughout the period when the film is being exhibited and the public is seated in the auditorium. Compliance of Condition No. 27 of the licence leaves the theatre owner with no option. According to the requirements of Condition No. 27, when the running of the fans, air-cooling apparatus etc. becomes impossible for one reasons or other the theatre owner must stop altogether exhibition of films. The intention of the law is clearly to foreclose to the theatre owner all avenues of excuses and explanations for his failure to supply the cine-goer with the comforts for which he has been charged. This piece of law is eminently reasonable, for it forbids the theatre-owner from unjustly making money at the cost of the comfort and health of cine-goers.
9. So much is clear beyond a shadow of doubt. But the question is what is the meaning to be given to the words 'without reasonable cause' occurring in S. 10(2)(b) of the Act which authorises the imposition of a penalty on the theatre owner. In order to attract S. 10(2)(b) of the Act, failure to comply with the Condition No. 27 must be without reasonable cause. This language presupposes not only the existence of a cause for non-compliance with Condition No. 27 but also that cause should be reasonable. A cause can be said to be reasonable only if that cause is based on reason. The failure of electricity may operate as a cause in the abstract for not running the air-cooling apparatus or fans. But in the context of a covenant entered into by the theatre owner with the cine-goers in consideration of the money received, such a failure of electricity can never be regarded as reasonable so as to justify the failure to operate fans and air-cooling system. By holding such a cause as amounting to be reasonable the law must be presumed to sanction the unjust enrichment of the theatre-owner. Such an absurd intention cannot be attributed by implication to the Legislature. The theatre owner who has charged the cine-goer must therefore make his own arrangements to perform the contract.
10. From the explanation, which has been given by the managing partner of the Amba Theatre in this case it is clear that the theatre proprietor had admitted that while he had run the film with the help of a generator, he failed to run the air-cooling plant to its full capacity. That means the cine-goer is robbed not merely of his entertainment but even of his money. In the context of money collected from the cine-goers, this explanation is therefore a clear admission on the part of the Amba Theatre owner that he violated Condition No. 27 without a reasonable cause by not operating the air-cooling apparatus throughout the period which the film was being exhibited and the public was seated in the auditorium. In my view, this is sufficient to impose the maximum penalty of cancellation of the licence on the theatre owner, because under Condition No. 27 of the licence, it is not permissible for the theatre owner to exhibit firms without providing the comforts and amenities of the extractors, exhaust fans, ceiling fans and the air-conditioning apparatus and the like. In other words, where due to failure of electricity or other reasons a cinema theatre owner finds it impossible to operate fans or the air-conditioning apparatus, he had no option except to close down that show and return the money to the public. He cannot be permitted under the law to use his generator merely to run the films and charge the cine-goer for services not rendered. This is the clear meaning of Condition No. 27 of the licence subject to which alone the petitioner can run his theatre. The petitioner who has admitted to the fact of exhibiting films with the help of a generator but without putting on the air-cooling apparatus to its maximum capacity, cannot make any legitimate grievance of the orders passed either by the Commissioner of Police or the Government. If generator of proper capacity had been used for running air-cooling apparatus, Condition No. 27 could have been satisfied. The failure to comply with Condition No. 27 is therefore wilful and without any reasonable cause within the meaning of S. 10(2)(b) of the Act.
Further, failure of electricity cannot provide a reasonable cause to close the air-conditioning apparatus, exhaust fans alone, within the meaning of S. 10(2)(b) of the Act without closing the entire exhibition of film. At any rate in the present case, the decision to use the electric power generated by the electric generator to operate the cinema projector and not to operate the air-cooling apparatus to full capacity is clearly wilful and not for reasons beyond the control of management. I cannot believe that the Legislature intended to authorise the unjust enrichment of the unscrupulous theatre owner at the cost of the cine-goer, while it forbids the honest theatre owner from running an air-tight theatre without providing the facility of air-cooling. The alternative interpretation that legally permits the theatre owner to run an air-conditioned theatre without fans, exhausts and air-cooling apparatus on the plea of failure of power supply must be rejected as it amounts to sanctioning not merely unjust enrichment of the theatre owner but also permitting the theatre owners to play with the health of the cine-goers which the Legislature could never have intended. I therefore hold that both on facts of this case as well as a matter of interpretation of S. 10(2)(b) of the Act read with Condition No. 27 of the licence, the failure on the part of the management to run the air-cooling apparatus to full capacity while running the shows is wilful and actionable.
11. It is unfortunate that the petitioner should make incredible allegations against the Deputy Commissioner of Police. The Deputy Commissioner is acting merely as an agent of law and for the protection of public good and not for reasons of personal aggrandizement. We must remember that in the non-controversial, non-political area of ordinary law enforcement, the Police are the true servants of the general public. In that area they watch over our interests and serve as our watchmen working every day and night and hour. There is no personal animosity suggested by the petitioner against the Deputy Commissioner of Police. Why should such a young and responsible officer take the trouble of visiting a theatre and charging a law-breaking cinema proprietor instead of locking himself up in his office or private study spending his time reading a novel or watching T.V., sometimes called the 'Idiot Box', except for reasons of public duty Such duty conscious police officers deserve our commendation, not condemnation. This Court should resolutely refuse to twist the arm of the police used to protect the cinema-going public from the unscrupulous and immoral exploitation of the cinema theatre owners.
12. Before closing down this judgment, I must caution those who are wilfully breaking law and committing economic crimes for gain or profit, that Art. 226 of the Constitution is not a slot-machine intended to be operated for their redemption. This Court, under Art 226 of the Constitution, cannot and should not relieve such criminals from the consequences of their crimes in consideration of the court-fee they pay, as Popes from Vatican once used to grant to the sinners bonds of indulgences in return for money.
13. For the above reasons, I dismiss this writ petition.
14. Petition dismissed.