Bombay HC quashes Maharashtra govt’s order for age limit on film sets
Artistes and crew members, who are senior citizens, are free to resume shootings for films, television serials, and over-the-top (OTT) media, after the Bombay high court (HC) on Friday struck down a temporary prohibition imposed by the Maharashtra government because of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
A two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices SJ Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla, struck down the temporary prohibition on the grounds that it was discriminatory and unreasonable.
“In our view, there is discrimination in the disparate treatment of persons, who are 65 years of age or above in the film or TV industry and in other permitted sectors and permitted activities,” said the bench while striking down the temporary prohibition.
The temporary prohibition was a part of a Maharastra government resolution (GR) issued on May 30, the day on which it had allowed the resumption of shootings for films, TV serials, and OTT series, and pre-and post-production work since the lockdown restrictions were imposed in end-March to contain the spread of the contagion.
The bench said that if there were no general prohibition on persons above 65 years from working or practising their trades and businesses that were allowed to operate, which is an age-based prohibition in only one industry, namely the film industry/television/ OTT “would constitute an unreasonable restriction”.
HC said 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 allied activities.
“However, having permitted the film industry to operate and open, introduction of the condition that places an absolute restriction on persons above 65 years from carrying out their occupation and trade, would amount to an unreasonable restriction and hence a violation of their right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution (right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business).”
Pramod Pandey, an actor by profession, who has been earning his livelihood by performing small roles in films and TV serials over the last four decades, and the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA), the oldest association of the film industry, had challenged the validity of the temporary prohibition before HC, primarily on the ground that it was discriminatory and imposes an unreasonable restriction on their right to carry on their trade and occupation.
HC accepted their contentions.
The bench also held that the absolute prohibition on cast and crew above 65 years, who earn their livelihood from the film industry, was a measure that violated the right of the petitioners to live with dignity under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.