HC quashes 'discriminatory' orders on senior film TV artistes

    (Eds: Adds details, quotesfrom judgement)
    Mumbai, Aug 7 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Friday
quashed the provisions of the two circulars issued by the
Maharashtra government that barred TV and film artistes above
65 years of age from resuming shootings and related work
during the coronavirus lockdown, terming them "discriminatory.
    A bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla, while
setting aside the GRs (government resolutions) issued by the
state, held that such restriction was "iscriminatory", and
breached the fundamental rights of the artistes to practice
their trade and earn a livelihood with dignity.
    The court was hearing two petitions, one filed by 70-
year-old actor Pramod Pandey, and another by the Indian Motion
Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA).
    The petitioners had challenged the GRs issued on May
30 and June 23 explaining what was permitted and what wasn't,
as the government relaxed some lockdown norms under its
'Mission Begin Again' initiative.
    The GRs said, among other things, that while the state
was permitting a gradual resumption of some activities,
including shootings and pre and post-production work of films,
television and OTT programmes, such cast and crew members who
were above 65 years of age would not be permitted to report to
work at sets or studios.
    The GRs barred such artistes from remaining present in
studios or shoot sets.
    The government counsel, Purnima Kantharia, told the
court that the prohibition had been imposed since those above
65 were at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus.
    The petitioners' counsel, Ashok Saorogi, however,
argued that such prohibition had been imposed only on the film
and TV industry.
    While all persons above 65 years of age had been
directed to stay indoors when the lockdown was first imposed,
once the state introduced relaxations, persons above 65 were
allowed to join back private offices and operate shops, among
other activities, as long as they adhered to safety and health
care safeguards mandated by the government, Saorogi said.
    The petitioners said that the GRs, therefore,
discriminated against artistes.
    The HC had appointed senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani as
the amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case to assist
    Jagtiani submitted that the state had failed to
provide any legal or logical reasoning behind imposing such
restriction only on artistes. He had said that the restriction
on artistes was arbitrary.
    The bench agreed with the submissions made by Jagtiani
and the petitioners, and held in its judgement that the
restriction imposed through the said GRs did not show an
application of mind.
    "In our view, the impugned condition is not based on
any intelligible differentia (a difference capable of being
understood) between any two identical classes of persons above
the age of 65 years," the bench said.
    "Whilst there may be a nexus with the object sought to
be achieved, i.e. to protect vulnerable people from the COVID-
19 pandemic, there is no intelligible differentia between
persons who are 65 years of age or above in the cast/crew of
films and TV shootings on the one hand and persons who are 65
years of age or above in other sectors and services, permitted
under prevailing lockdown orders," it noted.
    The bench also maintained that barring such artistes
from working was in breach of their fundamental right to earn
a livelihood with dignity and to practice their trade as
guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution.
    "It would be a different matter if for policy and
health considerations, the film industry would not be allowed
to operate or open for filming and other related activities,"
the bench said.
    "However, having permitted the film industry to open
and operate, subject to conditions, the introduction of the
condition that places an absolute restriction on persons above
the age of 65 years from carrying out their occupation and
trade, whilst not similarly restricting persons of the same
age who are engaged in other trades or occupations that are
permitted to operate and open, would amount to an unreasonable
restriction. And hence a violation of their right under
Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution," it said.
    The bench thus quashed the restriction imposed through
the said GRs on permitting artistes above 65 years of age to
resume work.
    It, however, said that all other advisories or health
safeguards that were mandatory for all persons above 65 years
of age would be applicable for such artistes too. PTI AYA

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)