The Modi government wants singing of the national anthem made compulsory in all schools, its top law officer told the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday clarified that movie-goers needn’t stand when the song played as part of a film or documentary.
The court was hearing a petition by a film society, which challenged its November 30 order asking all cinemas to play Jana Gana Mana and the audience to stand up to show respect to the 52-second anthem.
People, the court clarified Tuesday, did not have to sing along.
Nationalism had to be instilled and it should start from childhood, said attorney general Mukul Rohtagi, opposing the recall plea.
“Compulsion to stand and sing (national anthem) as a part of school curriculum is required to be debated,” he said.
“The court has instilled pride, patriotism and nationalism through its national anthem order.”
Singing anthem is not compulsory but most schools play it during morning assembly.
The court had in August 1986 exempted three children, who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness sect, from singing the anthem at their school. Forcing the children to sing the anthem violated their fundamental right to religion, the court had said.
Rohtagi also called for a relook at a law that makes insulting national anthem and emblems an offence but is silent if one needs to stand up when the song plays.
Appearing for the film society, senior advocate CU Singh said the order had lead to vigilante groups anointing themselves the guardians of morality. They were using violence against those not standing up.
By issuing the anthem order, the court had legislated, a function of Parliament, Singh said. Courts had and should step in if there is no law to deal with a situation, Rohtagi said.
The anthem order was in place and being followed. “People are standing as per the directions… There is no need to recall the order,” Rohtagi said.
The case will now be heard on April 18.