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Delhi LG instructed to withdraw notification on issuance of cinema hall licenses by revenue department

Delhi LG instructed to withdraw notification on issuance of cinema hall licenses by revenue department
Image Credit: Flickr

The office of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that the Centre has instructed it to withdraw a notification issued in 2015 by which licences to cinema halls were to be granted by deputy commissioners of the revenue department and not the police. The matter assumes importance for two reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the tussle between the LG and the ruling dispensation in Delhi with regard to the administrative control of the national capital. Secondly, under the notification licences were to be granted by the deputy commissioners on the recommendation of a nodal agency and not by the licensing department of Delhi Police.

In an affidavit placed before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao, the office of LG Anil Baijal has said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sent a letter on January 1, 2019 asking it to withdraw the notification, which was issued in 2015 and challenged in the high court by an association representing cinema hall owners in the national capital. The affidavit also said the MHA's decision was communicated by the LG's office to the Chief Secretary of Delhi on January 9, 2019 to take necessary action.

The letter dated January 1, 2019, issued to the LG's office by the MHA said the ministry after obtaining the legal opinion of two senior law officers has decided that the notification of January 9, 2015 be withdrawn. The Delhi government, represented by its Additional Standing Counsel Gautam Narayan, said it will be filing an affidavit on the issue as soon as it is cleared by its law department.

The court, thereafter, allowed all the parties, including Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), to file their response to the affidavit filed by the LG's office and listed the matter for further hearing on April 12. AVUT, represented by senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, said the withdrawal of the notification was contrary to the law.

The association's chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy said on the sidelines that under the notification the licence would be issued only on the recommendation of the nodal agency which would have one person each from the police, fire services, municipal corporation and other concerned authorities and therefore, there would be no need for obtaining individual clearances from each of these statutory bodies.

The Centre had earlier told the court that since Delhi was a Union Territory (UT) akin to a presidency town, the licensing powers here be vested with the police as per the Cinematograph Act. The association challenged the notification after both the revenue department and the Delhi police sent letters to the cinema hall owners, informing that they would be carrying out inspections of the theatres.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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