Playing the national anthem in cinema halls is not mandatory any more. The Supreme Court stated this today, a day after the government asked it to review its October 2016 order, in which it had made playing Jana Gana Mana mandatory to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism.”
Reiterating that citizens should respect the anthem, the top court directed a panel, set up by the government, to take into account all aspects of the matter. The SC has also retained that, irrespective of the government’s decision, differently-abled citizens will be exempt from standing when the anthem is played.
What is the row over playing the national anthem in cinema halls?
On November 30, 2016, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy mandated that the anthem be played before the screening of every film in every theatre across the country. The direction was given “for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag.”
“A time has come, the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, which is the symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality,” the bench added.
It was hearing a PIL filed by a retired engineer from Bhopal, Shyam Narayan Chouksey, who sought norms regarding the playing of the national anthem in public places, including cinema halls, entertainment programmes and during official functions.
The SC’s order in 2016 led to widespread debate, with a section of people protesting it. The film society petitioned the court to recall its order.
So, was the directive followed?
Yes, the directive was enforced across the country within 15 days of the order. Every screen was made to show an image of the national flag when the anthem was played. The doors of the halls were closed and all Indian nationals were made to stand, barring the differently-abled.
What happened if they didn’t?
There were incidents of violence at halls, when people refused to stand up for the anthem. In one case, the Chennai police even booked some students for taking a selfie while the anthem was being played.
Why did the SC revise its order?
Based on the petition filed by the film society, the SC in October 2017 directed the government to take a call on the question of regulating the playing of the anthem in movie halls and other public places. Justice D Y Chandrachud had, in fact, wondered, “Why do people have to wear their patriotism on their sleeve?”
“People go to a movie theatre for undiluted entertainment. Society needs that entertainment,” he added.
In response to this, the Centre yesterday asked the top court to re-examine its order. It also told the court that it has set up an inter-ministerial committee to look into the matter. It said the 12-member committee would “consider wide-ranging issues relating to the National Anthem and has to have extensive discussions” and “will give its recommendations in this regard in six months time from the date of its constitution.”