The Maharashtra government has failed to "apply its mind" while restricting artistes above the age of 65 years to attend shoots, the Bombay High Court was told on Wednesday. The HC was further informed that the state’s decision barring senior citizen artistes from working in the TV and film industry, in view of the lockdown, is discriminatory and arbitrary. The state, however, maintained that its decision was reasonable and would be revised in future.
A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla was seized with a plea filed by a small-time actor Pramod Pandey (69) through advocate Ashok Saraogi, challenging the May 30 guidelines of the state government.
In an earlier hearing, the judges had sought to know if a physically fit senior citizen could be allowed to venture out and earn his livelihood and lead a dignified life. The bench had also queried why similar restriction on senior citizens was not imposed for other sectors.
Accordingly, the bench had appointed senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani as an amicus curiae (friends of the court) to assist the bench on the issue.
In his submissions, Jagtiani told the judges that the state has failed to explain why the age based absolute restriction was made part of the guidelines only for services relating to the film industry.
"Despite persons above 65 years of age being permitted to participate in activities across diverse sectors (for example employment in non-essential businesses and shops, private offices etc., which are permitted in non-containment zones) they are prohibited from working on site at film or TV shootings by these guidelines. There is no intelligible differentia between persons above the age of 65 years working in film and TV shootings on the one hand and persons of similar age group, working in other permitted sectors," Jagtiani submitted.
The amicus accordingly said that the guidelines were discriminatory and violated the fundamental right of equality, of the senior citizen artistes.
Government pleader Poornima Kantharia maintained that its decision was subject to future relaxation. “This condition is imposed in the interest of health and safety of vulnerable classes of persons. The restrictions are in the interest of persons with low or weak immunity as the disease is easily communicable," Kantharia told the judges. She added, “If the Union relaxes its guidelines pertaining to the persons above the age of 65 years, the state will adopt a similar course." Justice Kathawalla has reserved the matter for judgment.