OBSERVING THAT the national anthem should be a matter of pride for all Indians, the Supreme Court Friday said that playing the anthem before movie screenings shall be compulsory even at film festivals and that all people will have to stand to show
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy observed that the conditions imposed by its order on November 30 cannot be relaxed because some foreigners will be attending movie festivals or multiple movies would be screened.
It, however, clarified that the disabled need not stand “but must show such conduct which is commensurate with respect” for the anthem.
An organiser of an international film festival in Kerala had sought exemption from complying with the November 30 order of the top court, on the grounds that it would cause inconvenience to its 1,500 foreign guests.
“Only because certain foreigners are here and they may have some problems, should we recall our order? Why should we recall our orders only to oblige foreigners? If there are 40 movies running in different shows, you will have to, well, stand 40 times,” said the bench.
It further expressed bewilderment over the clamour against its order, which had said that “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” as a part of their “sacred obligation”.
“Whether you should respect the national anthem or not, should it be a matter of freedom of expression and freedom of choice? Every country feels proud of its national anthem but if we pass some orders, we don’t understand why there is so much of hue and cry?” observed the court.
It added that the court has not issued any mandamus (judicial writ to perform duties) on the playing of the national anthem. “It is not a mandamus… no state has come before us expressing any difficulty. Let them come here and then we will clarify,” said the bench.
The apex stand also clarified its order for the disabled, following a mention by senior lawyer Sidharth Luthra, who has been appointed as amicus curiae in the matter. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that the central government will issue guidelines within 10 days on “how the physically challenged or physically handicapped persons shall show respect to the national anthem”.
The bench further issued a clarification regarding its directive that the doors of movie halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused. “When we said that the doors shall be closed, we did not mean that the doors shall be bolted as mentioned in the Uphaar fire tragedy case, but only to regulate ingress and egress during the period while the national anthem is played,” said the court.
Dealing with the 1997-Uphaar fire tragedy case in which 59 lives were lost in a fire inside the Delhi cinema hall, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court had issued a set of safety guidelines for movie theatres.
One of these stated that “under no circumstances, the entry door (which can act as an emergency exit in the event of fire or other emergency) should be bolted from outside”. This direction was passed after the bench had noted that one of the doors in Uphaar cinema was bolted from outside, which prevented scores of victims from escaping the blaze.
To instill “committed patriotism and nationalism”, the court had last month made the national anthem mandatory in cinema halls while discarding arguments of “any different notion or the perception of individual rights”.
“The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism,” the bench had said, giving 10 days for compliance with its direction.