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National Anthem not mandatory at cinemas: Supreme Court

Anurag Dey | Updated on: 9 January 2018, 21:45 IST

In a significant move, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday modified its earlier order that mandated playing of the National Anthem prior to the screening of a movie, and left it to the discretion of exhibitors.
The latest order by a Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra followed an affidavit by the Centre urging the Bench to modify its 30 November, 2016 interim order and restoration of the position as it stood before the order was passed.
“Playing of National Anthem prior to screening of a cinema is not mandatory,” the Bench said, accepting Attorney General KK Venugopal’s plea.
Acting on a public interest litigation, the Bench in 2016 mandated playing of the Anthem in all cinemas prior to the screening of every movie. It had also directed that everyone present should stand up and pay respect while it was played.
“Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism… people must feel they live in a nation and this individually perceived notion of freedom must go… people must feel this is my country, my motherland,” the then Justice Misra-headed Bench had said passing the order.
Making a massive U-turn on the issue, the Centre in its affidavit on Monday urged for the restoration of status quo until an inter-ministerial committee constituted to look into all aspects relating to the playing or singing of the Anthem comes out with its recommendations.
“The framing of guidelines describing circumstances and occasion on which National Anthem is to be played or sung and observance of proper decorum on such occasions, require extensive consultations with various ministries,” said the affidavit informing about the constitution of the Inter-ministerial committee chaired by Additional Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs.
The government ordered constituting the 12-member committee on 5 December, 2017 that is to submit its recommendations within six months from the date of its constitution.
Earlier the Centre had argued that playing the National Anthem in cinema halls will instill a belief of patriotism.
“Because of the vast diversity in the country based on religion, race, caste and even region, it was necessary to have uniformity which should be cultivated by playing the national anthem so that when people come out from the cinema halls, instilling the belief that they are all Indians,” it had contended.
During the hearing of the PIL on 23 October, 2017, differences between Justice DY Chandrachud and Chief Justice Misra – two of the three members of the Bench, was out in the open.
“One need not wear patriotism on his sleeve”, Justice Chandrachud had said, adding that a person who does not stand up or not sing the Anthem should also not be seen as “less patriotic”.
His observations were in complete contrast the CJI who had authored the 2016 order.
But in an unanimous order, the Bench directed the Centre to take a call on the issue without being influenced by its earlier order.
“Government should take a call in this regard and, if necessary, as advised, may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules. When we say 'take a call', needless to say, the discretion rests with the Central Government.
“The discretion has to be exercised without being influenced by our interim order. We may further emphasise that the discretion may be utilised to regulate in an inclusive manner or as the Central Government feels fit,” read the court’s 23 October order.
The PIL was filed by Bhopal-based Shyam Narayan Chouksey, seeking directions to the government to take appropriate steps to specify what would constitute disrespect and abuse of the National Anthem.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

First published: 9 January 2018, 21:45 IST