The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought a reply from the Maharashtra government about its notification dated May 30, in which it prohibited cast and crew members above the age of 65 from entering television and film sets, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Live Law on Wednesday reported. Maharashtra government has allowed film and TV shootings to restart, but with restrictions.

Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla were hearing a writ petition filed by Pramod Pandey, a small-time actor who said he had been performing roles in TV serials and movies over the last 40 years. He added that due to the new guidelines, his livelihood was in danger.

Lawyer Ashok Saraogi, appearing for the petitioner, contended that he was physically fit and he did not have any other source of livelihood. The petitioner also argued that if data was sought from the government, it would be found that the majority of persons affected by the pandemic are below the age of 65.

In response, government counsel Poornima Kantharia said that the guidelines allow castings to be done remotely via Facetime, Zoom, Skype etc.

But Justice Kathawalla said: “The learned advocate for the state has to be reminded that the actors performing small roles are required to go to the studios and request for work to enable them to have their two meals and no producer or director is going to shoot their role via Facetime, Zoom, Skype etc.” The bench then ordered the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit stating how a physically fit person above the age of 65 years is expected to live a “dignified life” if he is not permitted to go out to earn his livelihood.

The court asked the state to clarify whether any data/reports/statistics were taken into consideration before issuing guidelines prohibiting cast and crew above 65 years of age from attending shoots. It also asked the state to set out in its affidavit whether a similar age limit has been made applicable to individuals travelling by public transport, to private employers and their staff, and to persons allowed to attend marriage functions or funerals.

The Maharashtra government started its “Mission Begin Again” programme from June 1, in an effort to kickstart stalled economy activity. It allowed delivery of non-essential goods, transport services, operation of offices with limited staff strength and opening of all shops except those selling alcohol products, among other measures.

Maharashtra has so far reported 3,27,031 cases of the coronavirus, including 12,276 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. As many as 1,82,217 people have recovered, which means the number of active cases is 1,32,538.

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