Should people wear patriotism on sleeves: SC hints at modifying national anthem order

On December 1, 2016, the Supreme Court had made it mandatory to play the national anthem before the screening of a movie. The bench said that it may replace the word ‘shall’ with ‘may’ in that order.
Justice Chandrachud said that the society needs undiluted entertainment, not moral policing.(HT File Photo)
Justice Chandrachud said that the society needs undiluted entertainment, not moral policing.(HT File Photo)
Updated on Oct 24, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByBhadra Sinha, New Delhi

A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra hinted on Monday that it may modify its 2016 verdict and make it optional for cinema halls to play the National anthem.

The top court also asked the Centre to consider amending the national flag code if it wanted to enforce the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls across the country.

In November 2016, the court passed an order, saying, “All the 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.”

On Monday, Chief Justice Misra said the court “may modify its order and may replace the word “shall” with “may.” Until then the November order will be in operation”.

During the hearing, one of the judges on the bench, Justice DY Chandrachud, asked Attorney General KK Venugopal whether everyone “should wear our patriotism on our sleeves?”

The court was hearing a petition against the November order filed by the Kodungalloor Film Society in Kerala.

Responding on behalf of the government, Venugopal said the playing of the national anthem fostered national unity in a vast and diverse country like India, and referred to the fundamental duties enshrined in the constitution. The attorney general also opposed recalling of the order by the top court.

Justice Chandrachud remarked that people visited cinema halls for entertainment.

“Tomorrow if someone says don’t wear shorts and t-shirt to cinema halls because National Anthem is being played…. Where do we draw a line? Where do we stop this moral policing?” he asked.

On the government’s stand that national anthem promotes unity amongst Indians, the court said: “Why don’t you amend the Rules? Why should we take on your burden?”

The Supreme Court fixed January 9, 2018 to hear the government on whether it will issue an appropriate notification or circular to this effect.

The November order was passed by a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra.

In December 2016 the apex court tweaked the order to exempt movie goers with physical disabilities from standing. Later government issued guidelines saying those in wheelchairs and crutches should remain still and maintain “maximum possible alertness physically” when the anthem is played.

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