MUMBAI: Maharashtra government's guidelines stopping artistes above 65 years of age from attending shootings are not permanent and might be revised when the state takes stock of lockdown measures with effect from August 1, the Bombay High Court was told on Wednesday.
State government counsel Poornima Kantharia told the court that artistes above 65 years of age should be urged to stay home for a few more days as the guidelines restricting their movement to studios were meant for their own good.
Kantharia was responding to a query by a bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla on whether the government resolution (GR) regarding the film and TV artistes above 65 years of age was prohibitory or merely recommendatory in nature.
The bench was hearing two petitions filed by 69-year-old actor Pramod Pandey and by theIndian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) challenging the GR.
The court had earlier appointed senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani as an amicus curiae in the case to assist it.
Jagtiani told the bench on Wednesday that while the state's GR seemed to be prohibitory in nature, it was not based on any valid grounds.
Jagtiani said the restrictions were arbitrary, discriminatory, and were not based on an "intelligible differentia" (a difference capable of being understood).
Jagtiani also said such restriction on artistes was in violation of their right to a dignified life and their right to carry on trade and earn a livelihood, as guaranteed by Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
On a previously hearing, the bench had said the state's restrictions seemed discriminatory as senior citizens were not restricted from going to private offices for work, or from operating their shops etc.
On Wednesday, the court asked the government to clarify if the restriction was mandatory in nature and if punitive action would be taken against an artiste if he or she being above 65 years of age, decided to resume work at a studio or outdoor location.
Kantharia answered in the negative but didn't clarify whether the guidelines were advisory in nature or mandatory.
She, at first, said they were merely recommendatory, but then added that the artistes must stay put for "a few more days.
"This guideline has an objective of benevolence. Senior citizens are at high risk (of contracting infection). They must take care of their health. Today we are hale and hearty but no one can say who will become victim to the virus in just the next moment," Kantahria said.
The court said this stood true for everyone, whether 65 years of age or not.
"We are all at risk. But then, every individual even if above 65 years of age, must be given the right to take care of his or her own health," it said.
The petitioners' counsel Ashok Saorogi argued that the guidelines were clearly discriminatory and weighed against artistes.
"In all other sectors, restrictions have been relaxed. The state gave the example of how salons and barber shops were allowed to open only recently."
"However, that's not a valid example as nowhere has the state restricted those above 65 to visit a barber, or from the barber being above 65 years of age," Saorogi said.
The court then asked the state counsel what will be the consequence if an artiste above 65 years of age chose to step out for work today.
"Will he or she be in breach of any rules of the centre or the state government," the court asked.
Kantahria said, "They will not be in breach of any such mandatory rules, but the consequence will be the artistes' own ill health".
The HC has now closed all arguments in the case and reserved its judgement that is likely to be pronounced later this week.