The decision to restrain persons above 65 years of age from attending shootings on film and television sets was not to discriminate against them, and was taken in the general interest of such people, the Maharashtra government has told the Bombay High Court.
The government, however, also said no data or statistics were taken into consideration while prohibiting those above the age of 65 on sets of film and TV shows.
In an affidavit, filed by Prasad Mahajan, under secretary in the state Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the government said its order prohibiting people above the age of 65 years from going to film and television shooting sets was not with a view to discriminate, but was in the general interest and for the safety of such people.
The affidavit was submitted on Saturday in response to a petition filed by one Pramod Pandey challenging the guidelines issued by the state government on May 30, 2020, stating that no cast/crew member above the age of 65 years will be allowed to film and television shooting sets.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla will take up the petition for final hearing next week.
The 70-year-old petitioner said he was doing small roles in films and TV serials for four decades, and that he does not have any other source of livelihood.
He further said in his petition that though he is physically fit, he is not allowed to go to studios and participate in shootings.
The government in the affidavit said all its orders passed from time to time in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically request senior citizens and children to stay at home and go out only for essential work and health reasons.
“The said condition is not to deprive any cast/crew members above the age of 65 years nor can it be termed as discriminatory as interest of the cast and crew has been protected and balance is maintained by permitting them to either work from home or over video conferencing or other video sharing apps,” the affidavit said.
“Those persons who are unable to go to the studios can work from home and earn their livelihood as being done by many individuals in private offices. If this too is not possible, then alternative arrangements should be adopted for earning livelihood and survival in this COVID-19 pandemic situation, the government said.
The court on Tuesday asked the government if it relied on any data or statistics before passing the order.
Replying to it, the affidavit said, No data/reports/ statistics were taken into consideration before issuing the impugned guidelines restraining cast/crew members above the age of 65 years from attending shooting sets or studios.”
The affidavit said in order to check the rise in COVID-19 cases, the state government had imposed restrictions on various sectors. Some of these restrictions were relaxed from time to time.
Several requests were made to the government to permit shooting of films and television series, it said.
“As the economic progress of the country was hampered following the COVID-19 outbreak, the government gave permission to resume the film and television industry by relaxing few restrictions, the affidavit said.
The government said the petitioner (Pandey) may be physically fit, but the fact remains that one never knows when a person would get infected by the coronavirus.
“The virus could infect any individual who would come in contact with an infected person. A person could be asymptomatic and could spread the infection to others who have low or weak immunity, the affidavit said.
It further said even guidelines issued by the central government in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have imposed restrictions on the movement of senior citizens and children.
“If the central government relaxes its guidelines pertaining to persons above the age of 65 years then the state government would also adopt the same”, the affidavit said.