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National Anthem No Longer Compulsory in Indian Cinemas

11 January 2018
National Anthem No Longer Compulsory in Indian Cinemas

India's Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a ruling that ordered the national anthem to be played before movie screenings while audiences stand, a ruling that sparked a spate of arrests and attacks on cinema-goers who refused to rise.

The Maharashtra government had made playing the national anthem in cinema halls before every movie mandatory in 2003.

The centre had set up the committee after the top court, in October past year, observed that the people "cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves" and it can not be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is "less patriotic".

The formation of the inter-ministerial committee was mentioned on Tuesday by an SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, that made playing of national anthem in cinema halls before screening of movies optional, modifying its earlier order.

Enumerating the relevant part of the 2012 order, the court said there were three things that these guidelines highlight - one, the national anthem is a salutation to motherhood, second, there can not be an exhaustive list of occasions and third, decorum must be maintained.

However, in the event a theatre does play the National Anthem, cinemagoers will have to stand up.

The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act states: "Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both". "Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung", the Bench quoted Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy's words in the verdict. The Centre said an inter-ministerial committee was being asked to look into the matter and the government would take a call once the committee submitted its recommendations in six months.

The court had on November 30, 2016, passed this order. "The Act only says what constitutes disrespect to the national flag and Constitution". The bench had further stated that an Indian doesn't need to wear his patriotism on his sleeves.