MUMBAI: In a relief for cast/crew above 65 years, Bombay high court struck down a condition in the state government’s two circulars that barred them from film and television shootings. The court observed that it is discriminatory, arbitrary and violates their right to live with dignity.
“Having permitted the film industry to operate and open, subject to conditions, the introduction of the impugned condition that places absolute restriction on persons above the age of 65 years from carrying out their occupation or trade, whilst not similarly restricting persons of the same age who are engaged in other trades or occupations thar permitted to operate and open, would amount to an unreasonable restriction and hence a violation of their right under Article 19 (1) (g) (Right to practice any profession..) of the Constitution,” said a bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla.
The judges quashed and set aside the condition in May 31 and June 23 government resolutions (GR) to restart media entertainment industry for Mission Begin Again, that “any cast/crew member above the age of 65 years will not be allowed at the site.” They, however, clarified that the advisory is applicable to all persons above 65 years would also apply to persons associated with the film/TV industry. The verdict was delivered on petitions by artiste Pramod Pandey and Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association who were represented by advocate Ashok Saraogi.
The judges held there is discrimination in the disparate treatment of persons who are 65 years or above in the film and television industry and in the other permitted sectors and permitted activities. The same is not based on intelligible differentia and there is no explanation to this effect from the State government in its reply, they said, adding that the condition therefore cannot be sustained under Article 14 (Right to Equality)of the Constitution.
The judges also said the condition failed to consider relevant material, namely, relaxation in ministry of home affairs’ May 30 order and state government’s May 31 order. The state’s reply had said the condition is based on these two orders that require persons who are 65 years and above to stay at home except for essential or medical purposes.
The judges agreed with amicus curiae senior advocate Sharan Jagtiani that unlike the mandatory nature of guidelines issued in previous lockdown phases, MHA’s May 30 order was advisory. While it had relaxations, there was no corresponding relaxations with regard to film and television in the State’s May 31 order. This aspect was not considered by the State especially in addressing clarifications in the June 23 order. Rather in its July 25 reply to HC, it stated that if the Centre relaxes this condition a similar relaxation will be issued by the State.
The judges noted that having concluded that the impugned condition is discriminatory and arbitrary, they are satisfied that the absolute prohibition violates the petitioners’ right to live with dignity under Article 21 (Right to Life).
They mentioned government pleader Poornima Kantharia’s submission that no coercive will be taken against those above 65 years who choose to remain present on sets and that the condition is in the interest of health and safety such persons.