Playing national anthem in cinemas optional, says SC

Says playing it is optional, not mandatory

The Supreme Court on Tuesday recalled its order that made playing the national anthem mandatory in cinema halls across the country before the movie.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra modified its interim order passed on November 30, 2016.

"Playing of the national anthem prior to the screening of the movie is not mandatory," the court said.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said playing of the national anthem would be optional in movie halls but whenever it is played, everybody has to "stand up respectfully and show proper respect". The order would be "directory" and "not mandatory", the court said.

The court accepted Attorney General K K Venugopal's suggestion that the direction should be made optional and the word "shall" should be replaced with "may".

According to the court's November 30, 2016, direction "all cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem."

The court also noted the submission by Venugopal, who said a high-powered inter-ministerial committee has been set up on December 5 to bring out the modalities of playing the national anthem.

The 12-member panel would give its report within six months and suggest if changes are to be made to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.

It disposed of a plea filed by Shyam Narayan Chouskey as Venugopal said the petitioner could make a representation before the panel.

The top law officer also submitted that the court may not conceive of thousands of ways in which disrespect to the national anthem may happen, so it must be left to be decided on a case-to-case basis.

He reiterated the Union government's stand which clarified in an affidavit filed on Monday, urging the court to restore status quo ante till the committee took its decision on the issue.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing as amicus curiae, submitted that Article 51A (fundamental duties) enjoining every citizen to show respect to the national flag and anthem was brought in 1976 when the 1971 Act Act was in force, therefore it was to be understood in the correct perspective.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, as an intervenor, requested the court to modify its order, saying the national anthem has got ceremonial significance and it should not be trivialised by playing it four times.

Senior advocate Sajan Povayya urged the court to ask the committee to consider making it mandatory for playing the national song along with the anthem in schools. He said the national song must be treated on equal footing with the anthem.

Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for a film society, submitted that the petitioner should approach Parliament and the apex court was not the appropriate forum for raising such issues.

What the new order says

Playing national anthem optional but whenever it is played, everybody has to "stand up respectfully and show proper respect"

Order would be "directory" and "not mandatory", the court said
The court accepted the suggestion that word "shall" should be replaced with "may".

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