Singing of the English version of the national anthem at the Kota mayor’s school has sparked off a row as two people have written to the Rajasthan high court chief justice, alleging that the act was a dishonour to the patriotic song.
Urging the chief justice on Wednesday to treat the letter as a public interest litigation (PIL), the two said the anthem was sung during the Republic Day celebrations at the school in more than 52 seconds, the set time to finish its singing.
The mayor, who belongs to the BJP, said singing the English version of the anthem was not a violation of the rules.
The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 says dishonouring the national anthem will be punished with imprisonment (the term may be extended to three years) and fine.
Shiv Sen and Bhanu Singh of Kota wrote to the chief justice when a video of the anthem singing in English came out on the facebook. They have also lodged complaints with the Kota collector and the divisional commissioner.
Their counsel Dileep Sharma said, “The litigants have sent a PIL to the chief justice of the high court accusing MB International School authorities of letting their staff sing the English version of the national anthem during Republic Day celebrations; the staff took 67 seconds, instead of the laid norm of 52 seconds, to finish singing, which is a violation of constitutional provisions.”
Mayor and school director Mahesh Vijayvargiya said Rabindranath Tagore’s English rendering of the national anthem was sung at a cultural programme in the evening on the Republic Day and not during the flag hoisting. “There was no disrespect to the national anthem. While the video was of 67 seconds, the anthem was sung in around 56 seconds,” Vijayvargiya told HT on Thursday.
“I am not sure whether the singing of the anthem is a violation. I have talked to legal experts who have said it is not a violation. If at all it is an error, I on behalf of school authorities am ready to apologise,” said Dinesh Vijay, another director of the school.
Asked for his opinion on the issue, advocate Akhtar Khan ‘Akela’ said, “There is no clarity in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 and also in the Supreme Court rulings regarding singing of the national anthem in any language other than Hindi, or the time limit; so it cannot be said with certainty that singing the anthem in English or in more time is an offence. The court can take appropriate decision on it.”
Article 51A(a) of the Constitution enjoins every citizen to respect the national flag and anthem. In December last year, the Supreme Court said all cinema halls across the country should play the national anthem and that those present “must stand up in respect” to “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.
The order touched off a debate on whether forcing someone to sing the anthem infringes fundamental rights. Section 3 of the 1971 Act, (as amended in 2005) does not dictate whether a person should sit or stand when the anthem is playing or sung.