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Corporation of Calcutta Vs. Monarch Bioscope Co. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMedia and Communication
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1936Cal145
AppellantCorporation of Calcutta
RespondentMonarch Bioscope Co.
Cases ReferredGeneral of Bengal v. Prem Lal Mullick
Excerpt:
- .....the cinema show. this argument does not appeal to me. if the plaintiffs had no legal right to keep open a cinema they had no right to open it without a license. the next argument is that it has always been the practice of the corporation to serve a notice upon the proprietor of the place of amusement calling upon him to take a license and that it is not necessary to take a license until such notice is served. such may have been the practice of certain officers of the corporation but it is clear upon the terms of the act that it is the duty of the owner of the place of amusement to take a license in proper time before he opens the place of public amusement. it may be that the owners of a place which had a license may be allowed some time of grace to renew the license, but for a new show.....
Judgment:

M.C. Ghose, J.

1. This is an appeal by the defendant, the Corporation of Calcutta. The facts in short are these: The plaintiff, the Monarch Bioscope Co., which is a peripatetic Bioscope Co., obtained a license from the Commissioner of Police, Calcutta, to exhibit at a certain Mela within the Corporation of Calcutta, and according to their license they were opening the cinema show on 23rd April 1929. They had put up their temporary erections and were selling their tickets when a Corporation officer appeared with police help and prevented the company from exhibiting the cinema show on the ground that they had not taken a license from the Corporation of Calcutta. The plaintiffs' case is that after they obtained a license from the Commissioner of Police they were not bound to take a further license from the Corporation of Calcutta and the action of the Corporation officer was ultra vires and oppressive and they claimed damages for the same. The trial Court held that the plaintiffs were legally bound to take a license from the Corporation and as they had not done so, the action of the Corporation officer was not illegal. The trial Court dismissed the suit. In appeal, the learned Additional Subordinate Judge has held that the plaintiffs were not bound to take a further license from the Corporation and the action of the Corporation officer was ultra vires and illegal. The Court awarded damages of Rs. 100. The main question in appeal is whether under Section 391, Calcutta Municipal Act, it was obligatory on the plaintiffs to take a license from the Corporation. Section 391 is in these terms:

No person shall, without or otherwise than in conformity with the terms of a license granted by the Corporation in the behalf, keep open any theatre, circus or other similar place of public resort recreation or amusement.

2. The Court of appeal below thought that as the term 'cinema' is not in Section 391, and inasmuch as the report of the Select Committee dealt with the Bill and it appeared from the note of the Select Committee under the section that cinemas were not included in Section 391 in view of the Cinematograph Act of 1918, the cinematograph show does not come within the provisions of Section 391. It is urged on behalf of the appellant that the proceedings of the Legislature cannot be referred to as legitimate aids to the construction of the Act in which they result. See the case of Administrator-General of Bengal v. Prem Lal Mullick (1895) 22 Cal 788. Every Act must be construed according to the plain meaning of its terms, and if the plain meaning is clear we must take that plain meaning without reference to the previous law on the subject or the proceedings of the Select Committee. In this case, after hearing the learned Advocates on both sides at great length it is absolutely clear that the term theatre or circus or other similar place of public amusement cannot possibly omit a cinematograph show. A cinematograph show is one of the most widely spread popular forms of public amusement. It is held in a building similar to a theatre and it cannot possibly escape the words of Section 391. If the Legislature which enacted the section intended to omit the cinema in view of the Cinematograph Act of 1918 they should have specially stated it in a proviso to Section 391. As they have not done so and the words of the section are quite clear, we must hold that it includes cinematograph show.

3. The next question urged by the learned Advocate is that under Section 391 it is an offence to keep open a theatre or other place of amusement. It is urged that the show in question had not yet opened. They were only selling tickets at the door and had not yet begun exhibiting the cinema show. This argument does not appeal to me. If the plaintiffs had no legal right to keep open a cinema they had no right to open it without a license. The next argument is that it has always been the practice of the Corporation to serve a notice upon the proprietor of the place of amusement calling upon him to take a license and that it is not necessary to take a license until such notice is served. Such may have been the practice of certain officers of the Corporation but it is clear upon the terms of the Act that it is the duty of the owner of the place of amusement to take a license in proper time before he opens the place of public amusement. It may be that the owners of a place which had a license may be allowed some time of grace to renew the license, but for a new show such as the plaintiffs were opening, they must according to the law take a license before they open their show. The mere fact that the Corporation chose to give a notice would not make it legal on the part of the proprietor to open a show without a previous license. It was urged that the Cinematograph Act of 1918 is a complete Act and that as it provides for the safety of the public no further action is called for by the Corporation. To this the reply is that the Cinematograph Act is an all India Act and applies to Act shows exhibited at any time or place within British India and the chief object of the Act is to prevent the showing of unlicensed cinematograph films and further to have proper safeguard against fire. For this purpose, no one may open a cinematograph show at any place without any license under the Cinematograph Act of 1918. But this will not necessarily take away the power of the Calcutta Corporation under Section 391.

4. It should be observed that the business of a Municipal Corporation is not only to secure the safety of the public but also to secure their comfort and convenience. Whether in fact a poor performer should be bound to take license both under the Cinematograph Act and under the Calcutta Municipal Act is a matter for the high authorities to determine. As the law now stands the plaintiffs were under obligation to take a license from the Corporation. Then it was urged that the Corporation Officers acted ultra vires in suppressing the cinema without giving the plaintiffs an opportunity to take a license. The reply is that it was the duty of the plaintiffs to take a license before preparing to open the cinema. The learned Subordinate Judge has made strictures on the conduct of the Corporation Officers. It was suggested that probably the Corporation Officers would have passed over the matter if an illegal gratification had been given. However that may be, we must deal with the matter according to law, and according to the clear interpretation of the law the plaintiffs were under obligation to take a license from the Corporation and as they did not do so, it cannot be said that the Corporation Officers exceeded their authority in suppressing it. It was urged in the last place that the Corporation should have made a case against the plaintiffs and got them fined by the Magistrate and that they have no business to suppress the unlicensed show. The argument is of no weight. In the result, the appeal is allowed and the plaintiffs' suit is dismissed with costs. Leave to appeal under Section 15 of the Letters Patent is refused.


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