The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Maharashtra government that if the state does not prohibit a senior citizen from opening his shop and sitting there all day, then on what basis does it prevent artistes above 65 years of age from going out to work amid the current lockdown.
A bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla said that the state's decision to prohibit the artistes above 65 years of age, even if they are physically fit, from going out for shooting and such work, seemed like a case of "discrimination".
The bench directed the state government to submit its affidavit by Saturday explaining the basis on which such a prohibition had been imposed. The bench also said that the state must clarify if it took into account any "data, statistics, or reports" for issuing the prohibitory orders.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by one Pramod Pandey, challenging guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government on May 30, 2020.
As per these guidelines, no cast or crew member above the age of 65 years is allowed at film and television shooting sets.
In his plea filed through advocate Ashok Sarogi, 70- year-old Pandey said that he had been performing small roles in films and TV serials for four decades and that he did not have any other source of livelihood.
He said in his plea that though he was physically fit, the state was stopping him from going to work and earning a living.
On Friday, the state's counsel Poornima Kantharia told the high court that the guidelines were not discriminatory as all senior citizens had been prohibited from stepping out, except for going out for essentials.
She said that the state's guidelines on the age limit for artistes were based on several central government guidelines issued over the last few months of the lockdown.
The court, however, asked if all senior citizens had also been prohibited from resuming all types of professional
work, to which the state said they hadn't.
"If I am a 70-year-old man who owns a shop, will you stop me from opening my shop and sitting there all day?" the court asked.
To this advocate Kantharia said, "No." "Then why are you stopping artistes?" the bench asked.
"Where else have you applied this rule? This is discrimination," it said.
During the previous hearing held earlier this week, the high court had asked the state how a physically fit person, above 65 years of age, was expected to live a dignified life if he was not allowed to go out and earn his livelihood.
On Friday, the court appointed senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani as the amicus curiae to assist the court in the case.
It will now conduct a final hearing of the matter next week.