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SC may modify order on national anthem in cinemas: All you need to know

The Supreme Court on November 30, 2016 ordered all cinemas to play the national anthem before screening a film “for the love of the motherland”.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2017 10:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,SC national anthem,Dipak Misra
People stand for the national anthem at a cinema hall in Indore. (HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday hinted it may modify its 2016 order making it mandatory to play the national anthem in cinema halls.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asked the government to consider amending the national flag code if it wanted the anthem to be played in movie halls across the country.

The government has to respond by January 9, when the case will next be heard. Here is what you need to know about the debate over the national anthem:

What was the 2016 verdict?

The Supreme Court on November 30, 2016 ordered all cinemas to play the national anthem before screening a film “for the love of the motherland”.

It banned dramatising, abridging or making money from the 52-second-long Jana Gana Mana and said the Tricolour would be displayed on the screen during the duration of the anthem.

Moviegoers must stand up and all doors of cinema halls be closed at such times to stop people moving around.

“Universalism is alright but still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge... Gyaan and Vigyaan... people should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag,” the bench said.

The controversy

The order reignited a debate whether an increasingly assertive brand of nationalistic pride was stifling civil liberties. Critics said the move was likely to embolden Hindu groups pushing a strident brand of nationalism aimed at curbing dissent.

Many moviegoers said the directive was intrusive and hardly useful in promoting patriotism.

Since the 2016 verdict, there have been multiple incidents in which people have been beaten up for not standing up during the national anthem. Earlier this year, a wheelchair-bound disability rights activist was allegedly heckled and called a Pakistani at a movie multiplex in Guwahati as he couldn’t stand when the national anthem was played before the show began. People with disabilities are exempt from standing during the anthem but the government issues guidelines on how they can show respect when the national anthem is being played.

Why the court wants to revisit its order

During Monday’s hearing, one of the judges, justice DY Chandrachud, asked attorney general KK Venugopal if everyone “should wear our patriotism on our sleeves?”

The judge said people visited cinema halls for entertainment. “Tomorrow if someone says don’t wear shorts and t-shirts to cinema halls because national anthem is being played…. Where do we draw a line? Where do we stop this moral policing?” he asked.

To the government’s stand that the anthem promoted unity, the court said: “Why don’t you amend the rules? Why should we take on your burden?”

Where does the government stand?

Playing of the national anthem fostered national unity in a vast and diverse country like India, A-G Venugopal told the court on Monday, referring to fundamental duties that ask citizens to respect the flag and the anthem. The country’s top legal officer also opposed recall of the November 2016 order.

What do people think?

Social media users were divided on the issue. Many tweeted that the court’s move was a relief because citizens should not have to sing the anthem to prove their patriotism. Others disagreed and wondered why moviegoers couldn’t stand for 52 seconds out of respect for their country.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 09:54 IST