Playing National anthem is not mandatory for cinema halls : SC modifies its order

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For the “love of motherland” supreme court on november 30, 2016 ordered to play national anthem before screening of films. But on tuesday, it modified its stringent rule and made it it optional for cinema halls to play the 52-second ntional anthem before every show.

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A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, clarified that it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings in cinemas and it left to the choice of individual cinema hall owners whether to play it or not. However on the other hand, if anthem is played then it is obvious that with due respect patriots will stand up but court clarified that the exception granted to disabled persons from standing up during the anthem “shall remain in force on all occasions”.

It can be seen that the court this time used Home Ministry order of 2015, to direct that “whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. Playing of the anthem is directive, but showing respect is mandatory,” is observed by Chief Justice Misra.

“The court pointed out its judgment in the famed Bijoe Emmanuel versus State of Kerala  case, which dealt with three children belonging to the Jehovah Witnesses sect refusing to sing the anthem in the school assembly though they stood up in respect, to drive in the point that standing up is indeed a sign of “proper respect” to the anthem. The Bench quoted Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy’s words in the Bijoe Emmanuel verdict “Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung.”

REPORTS DUE IN 6 MONTHS

The ministerial panel will examine whether any amendments are necessary to the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act of 1971 to expand or specify the meaning of “respect” to the national anthem. The committee, which was set up on December 5, 2017, will submit its report in six months. The 1971 Act states: “Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal submitted that the ministerial panel would conduct a comprehensive study of the issue. The government began the hearing by referring to its latest affidavit, suggesting to the court to modify its November 30 order and give cinema owners discretion till the ministerial panel takes a final call.

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The complaints filed under the 1971 Act against Infosys founder Narayanamurthy and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor for ‘disrespecting’ the anthem, Mr. Venugopal submitted “respect or disrespect to the anthem has to be decided on a case to case basis. Your Lordships cannot think of a 1000 ways of respect to the anthem”. While leaving the ball in the government’s court, the Bench said, “Three things are obvious. The anthem has to be respected as it is the salutation to the motherland. The list of occasions for showing respect to the anthem. Proper decorum has to be maintained during the anthem.”

The advocate Abhinav Shrivastav, for petitioner S.N. Chouksey, argued that the guidelines for anthem would only hardly accomplish compliance from the public and he said similar executive orders were issued in 2012 and 2016, but to no avail.

Requesting to SC to intervene and interpret the 1971 Act Mr. Shrivastav said in the light of Article 51A of the Constitution which calls for ”respecting the ideals of the nation like the Constitution, the National Flag and the National Anthem.” The senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, for an intervenor says “The Act is totally widely worded. What will constitute disrespect of the National Anthem? The government’s guidelines have no teeth. The court will have to interpret respect to the anthem,” and looking towards this Mr. Shrivastav submitted that “The National Anthem is a tool for national integration. The Preamble uses the word ‘fraternity’ and assures integrity. The court’s order to play the Anthem in cinemas and for all to stand regardless of caste or religion subserves the cause of integrity. Therefore the November 30 order should not be recalled,”

ANTHEM BEING SACRED ELEMENT

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan submitted that the anthem has a sacred element and it shouldn’t be played four times a day in cinemas. While senior advocate Sajan Poovayya submitted that national symbols like the anthem identifies with the term ‘secular’ in the Preamble and unifies diverse communities. And another senior advocate C.U. Singh, for the Kodungalloor Film Society, submitted that the petitioners were in the wrong forum and should make their arguments for change in law before Parliament.

However advocate P.V. Dinesh said the court should consider the plight of film festival organisers and lovers who would be forced to play and stand up dozens of times in a day before every screening.

The Supreme Court agreeing with Mr. Venugopal said that the petitioners could make their representations before the inter-ministerial committee.

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