Jehovah’s Witnesses may challenge SC anthem order

The latest move by the Jehovah’s Witnesses will seek to overturn the apex court’s order on November 30, 2016, that all cinema halls in India would play the national anthem before the feature film starts.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Published:January 9, 2017 5:15 am
 Kerala professor, Jehovah Witnesses sect, Kerala professor-Supreme court, Kerala professor set to challenge SC, national anthem, fundamental right, right to not sing national anthem, India news, Indian Express V J Emmanuel with wife Lillikutty; (back row, from left) Binu, Bijoe, Bindu. Courtesy jw.org

OVER 30 years ago, a college professor in Kerala, who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect, knocked at the doors of the highest court in India on behalf of his children, citing religion as the reason to safeguard their right to not sing the national anthem at school.

Next month, when a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra restarts hearing petitions on its order last year on national anthems in cinema halls, the Jehovah’s Witnesses may again be at the forefront in challenging that decision.

On August 11, 1986, the Supreme Court had allowed Emmanuel’s plea and held that forcing the children to sing the national anthem at school violated their fundamental right to religion.

The latest move by the Jehovah’s Witnesses will seek to overturn the apex court’s order on November 30, 2016, that all cinema halls in India would play the national anthem before the feature film starts. This order also made it mandatory for all present in the hall “to stand up to show respect to the national anthem” as part of their “sacred obligation”.

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This time, it’s learnt that representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a US-based general counsel, are in the process of finalising a detailed application to be filed shortly in Supreme Court, which will restart hearings on February 14.

Among other things, the sect plans to seek the court’s intervention in ordering that its followers won’t have to stand up for the anthem in movie theatres. The sect hopes to convince the court that while it respects the national anthem and the flag, its religious beliefs prevent members from standing up for or singing the anthem.

The organisation has already secured relief on behalf of the sect on various issues in several countries, including saluting the flag and/or singing a country’s national anthem.

”Our patriotism can never be in doubt. But even standing for the national anthem is not allowed in our religion. Courts in several other countries have accepted our pleas on this count. The fact that we are looking to contest the court’s order doesn’t mean that we don’t respect our flag or our anthem. We hope to convince the court about that, like we have done in other countries, including the US and Canada,” said sources linked to the sect’s move.

When contacted, former Union law minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal confirmed that he has been approached by representatives of the sect in this regard.

”They informed me that their religious views don’t allow them to even stand up when the anthem is played. Their stand is that this doesn’t mean they will ever do anything to disrespect any country’s flag or anthem. These are issues of significant Constitutional importance,” Sibal told The Indian Express.

Jehovah’s Witnesses is a Christianity-based evangelical sect, which bases its beliefs solely on the text of the Bible. The group does not celebrate Easter or Christmas and believes that traditional Churches have deviated from the text of the Bible. However, the sect is not considered a part of mainstream Christianity because it also rejects the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

In the 1986 case, the Supreme Court bench had ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses family. “Our tradition teaches tolerance, our philosophy teaches tolerance, our Constitution practices tolerance, let us not dilute it,” the bench had said.

It had also noted that there was “no provision of law”, which “obliges” anyone to sing the national anthem.

However, the bench of Justice Misra, in its order last year, had said that “a time has come” when “citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to the National Anthem, which is the symbol of Constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality”.

On December 9, the bench clarified its order to state that “if a physically challenged person or physically handicapped person goes to the cinema hall to watch a film, he need not stand up, if he is incapable to stand, but must show such conduct which is commensurate with respect for the national anthem”.

The order has drawn widespread criticism, with renowned jurist Soli Sorabjee terming it as an example of “judicial overreach”.

In 1986, armed with the Supreme Court order, Emmanuel got his and other children from Jehovah’s Witnesses re-admitted in the NSS High School at Kidangoor in Kottayam district, 4 km from their village Kadaplamattom near Pala. The school run by the Hindu organisation, Nair Service Society, had 11 students from the sect, at the time.

After sitting in the classes for a day, the Emmanuel children left school. Some of the other children from the sect moved to other schools.

Emmanuel decided not to have formal education for his other four children, either. None of his eight grandchildren, who study in various schools, sings the national anthem.

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  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Jan 9, 2017 at 9:13 pm
    1 Peter 2:13-14lt;br/gt;Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human insution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
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      Abhinav Gour
      Jan 9, 2017 at 9:07 pm
      Do they know its part of religion to accept civil laws
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      1. V
        Vish
        Jan 9, 2017 at 6:07 am
        Jehovah's Witness has the same ideology of that ISIS or Islamic State. I wonder how many of them are Amway smen.
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        1. S
          Steve
          Jan 9, 2017 at 8:00 am
          lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;If a witness is already standing when the anthem starts to play he may remain standing !!!
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          1. T
            Tom jones
            Jan 9, 2017 at 3:31 am
            In america you do NOT have to stand for the national anthem. You will not be arrested.
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            1. I
              IML sood
              Jan 9, 2017 at 12:34 am
              What nonsense is being preached here.is their religion is above Country's honour. The observe freedom of their religion while living in India,how can they say that due that binding the will not stand to honourcountry's prestigious anthem. Such false binding of religion has no place in India.
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              1. G
                Guriji
                Jan 9, 2017 at 2:01 am
                Why not. It should also be pla in Govt offices at 9 am sharp, record of attendance taken and day started. After all they are all Govt servants (employees). This is also true for courts where even the judges will have to stand and understand that they are serving the country. lt;br/gt;Why only civilians.
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                  Amar Akbar
                  Jan 9, 2017 at 2:39 am
                  in American sports, the flag -- and the anthem -- is always there. At the biggest events, pregame festivities surrounding the song provide as much spectacle as the games themselves. The anthem is a show, and a show of force. Every year, the Pentagon approves several hundred requests for military flyovers (even if that means five F-18s buzzing the closed roof of Cowboys Stadium, as was the case at this year's Super Bowl). At lesser events, even at the high school level, a color guard is often on hand with the flag as the anthem is pla. A game without the anthem is likely one that doesn't matter much
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                  1. S
                    Sara
                    Jan 9, 2017 at 11:42 am
                    test
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                    1. S
                      Sara
                      Jan 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm
                      Hey, move to stan (or Iran), the epitome of religious tolerance. In Hindustan, we have some rights too. And, we are tired of the tyranny of the minorities.
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                      1. S
                        Sara
                        Jan 9, 2017 at 11:43 am
                        Going to a movie is a voluntary activity; other choices galore- DVDs, on line streaming and YouTube to name a few- where Mr. Emmanuel and his tribe can enjoy celluloid art lying down, sitting up or any other posture they may like to take.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Standing and singing along during the recital of the national anthem are mandated in the national interest in order to foster patriotism and develop unity among the potion. God plays no role in this. But if Mr. Emmanuel and his tribe feel strongly that being visibly and audibly loyal to the country where they live somehow violates ecclesiastical dictates, the tribe may want to consider moving to another country. I do not think the Government of India or the people of Kerala will have any objection to this.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;On the other hand, being visibly against national unity should cause concern. The Government of India should seriously, thoroughly and vigorously investigate the sources of funds received by this group that enable them to engage in expensive litigation at the Supreme Court level. The public needs to know if the funds are coming from nefarious sources or not. Interfering with Indian sovereignty by foreign agents may earn the local collaborators an opportunity to be fed, clothed and housed at government expense for a long time to come.
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                          Satendra kumar
                          Jan 9, 2017 at 12:52 am
                          Jehovah's witnesses should follow thier preaching about God thier virtue and righteousness not making authorative decision like consitution of India or land highest court Supreme Court.They should respect the judiciary system of this insution.
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                            MyTake
                            Jan 9, 2017 at 2:21 am
                            Those who do not want to meet national requirement they should not be given national ideny like pports. Every time they want to go some where they can have an one time use ideny stating who they are and where they come from. I don't think there is any problem to go with their own choice!
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                            1. M
                              MyTake
                              Jan 9, 2017 at 2:17 am
                              Those who do not want to stand and sing should be provided with an id that they can put on and sit!lt;br/gt;If you want to look like every one else than follow what others do - choice is to be made by the complainants! One does not need a hi fi solution for this small problem!
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                                Adam
                                Jan 9, 2017 at 5:58 am
                                In Chile during Fiestas Patrias, on September 18th and 19th, some Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Halls display the national flag - or risk having to pay a fine. The fact that they will honour a flag in one country, but not even stand for a National Anthem in another is another example of their duplicity. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Also, most Kingdom Halls have TV/Movie projection facilities - effectively making them 'cinemas'. Shouldn't they also be made to play the National Anthem before the presentation? ... Just saying!
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                                1. V
                                  Vish
                                  Jan 9, 2017 at 2:12 am
                                  Can any Jehowah Witness followers in the USA confirm that they do not stand up for national anthem in Sports events such as basketball and football in the US. I am going to check up with sports authorities in the US.
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                                    Homer
                                    Jan 9, 2017 at 4:27 am
                                    It is not ONLY at international or national games tht they play their anthem. But in schools and school events and games as and when thy choose. If you do no stand up you will also face legal moral and societal consequences! So please air you ignorance freely but do not try to justify that we have to ape America EVEN if in fact America does do as you believe!
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                                      Homer
                                      Jan 9, 2017 at 4:18 am
                                      This is India! We don't denigrate our flag and we don't abandon our parents! We don't have to ape Americans in every way to progress. Our values have come to us through thousands of years of experimentation not a handful of centuries! But I you must ape America continue to do so but don't try to enforce you values on our country court an culture. STAND UP FOR OUR ANTHEM OR STAND UP FOR AMERICA's anthem in America!
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                                      1. H
                                        Homer
                                        Jan 9, 2017 at 4:06 am
                                        Another group financed by America to challenge our culture and our nationalism through contrived and spurious objections! If you cannot respect our National Anthem take the GREENCARD they offer you and leave or face consequences!
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                                          anirudh
                                          Jan 9, 2017 at 7:15 am
                                          It is pertinent to point out that in the 1986 case, they had said that "The students who are Witnesses do not sing the Anthem though they stand up on such occasions to show their respect to the National Anthem. They desist from actual singing only because of their honest belief and conviction that their religion does not permit them to join any rituals except it be in their prayers to Jehovah their God. " lt;br/gt;In the latest decision, the Hon'ble SC has only said that during national anthem, one should stand (exception to disabled). Therefore, the Jehovah's Witnesses now cannot say that THEY WON'T EVEN STAND UP!
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                                            as
                                            Jan 9, 2017 at 4:36 am
                                            Brahmins are very very patriotic.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel!
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