Jana gana mana

Forcing someone to play — or to hear — the national anthem is an insult to its very idea and promise.

By: Editorial | Updated: December 1, 2016 11:40 am

It is an especially chilling moment when the Supreme Court curbs individual freedom in the name of nationalism. It’s the Supreme Court which has often protected and upheld the rights and liberties of the individual and the minority against attempts by the state to encroach on them, often in the name of the majority’s mandate. But Tuesday’s directives on the national anthem — it shall be played in all cinema halls, everyone shall stand up as a mark of respect, with all exits closed off, among other do’s and don’ts — are a clear and troubling backsliding from that record. By taking the patriotism test into the cinema hall, by forcefeeding a notion of nationalism to people seeking entertainment, the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy has not just offered an instance of striking judicial overreach. It has also let down all those who have come to look up to it as a custodian of constitutional freedoms. That the court is invoking the Constitution while moving against its spirit is even more disquieting.

WATCH VIDEO: Supreme Court Makes Playing National Anthem At Theaters Mandatory

India’s Constitution, after all, speaks of respect to the national flag and anthem as a fundamental duty in Part 1V A — a non-justiciable part of the document. Article 51(A) says that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India — (a) to abide by the Constitution and respect the ideals of the national flag and the national anthem”. The message of the founding fathers was clear: Respect to the nation and its symbols would not be enforced by state diktat or extracted through legal compulsion. Before Tuesday’s order, the apex court might also have done well to re-read one of its own judgements, which invoked and interpreted Article 51(A). In August 1986, in Bijoe Emmanuel & Others vs State of Kerala & Others, for the bench of Justice O. Chinappa Reddy and Justice M.M. Dutt, the question was: Did the refusal of three children, belonging to a sect called Jehovah’s Witnesses, to sing the national anthem during the morning assembly — because according to them, its singing is against the tenets of their religious faith — justify their expulsion from school? Calling the expulsion a “violation of the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”, the apex court said that “there is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the national anthem…” It concluded: “Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it”.

In March this year, the political resolution adopted at the BJP national executive insisted that chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is a constitutional obligation. In the same month, an elected legislator from the AIMIM, Waris Pathan, was suspended from the Maharashtra assembly for refusing to chime in. There have been instances of vigilantism in movie halls and other public spaces targeting people for their unwillingness or inability to wear their patriotism on their sleeve. That the highest court of the land could join in this growing, dreadful clamour is a disturbing prospect. The court must urgently review Tuesday’s order.

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    Prashant
    Dec 1, 2016 at 8:28 am
    If u can't stand for 52 seconds,,then u have no right to ask for security from terrorism,,,as as per your logic,,"soldiers r also not obliged to protect us by standing continuously for hours in biting cold ",,,,,,u expect a police waala or a soldier shd do his duty meticulously but Not u
    Reply
    1. P
      Prashant
      Dec 1, 2016 at 8:24 am
      See no one is having any problem with respect to this great judgement except few sick minded,brain washed Jihadis
      Reply
      1. B
        BhasadAlAssad
        Dec 1, 2016 at 7:03 am
        I think the chairmen of the Lok sabha and the Rajya sabha should keep the national anthem on a tape at hand. So whenever the honorable start behaving dishonorably, they can be calmed and focused back to their duty to their nation.
        Reply
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          ankit kumar
          Dec 1, 2016 at 6:41 pm
          just ridiculous
          Reply
          1. M
            man with
            Nov 30, 2016 at 6:56 pm
            I remember a dialogue from one of our films long ago, where a budding architect presents his design of a theatre to his teacher, where one has to climb up and down elaborate sets of stairs to reach anywhere. The teacher tears up his paper and remarks "Does a person go to a theatre to watch a performance or to give it!"
            Reply
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              Bandra
              Dec 1, 2016 at 10:22 am
              Mandatory laws and coercion cannot make a person more nationalistic but it is the mindset and spirit of its citizens that make them love their country. On the contrary such laws or judgements can have a countereffect. Patriotism can be expressed in different ways other than standing up while the national anthem is being pla.
              Reply
              1. R
                richa
                Dec 1, 2016 at 9:09 am
                There should be some punishments to people who intently disrespect our Anthem and does not stand while National anthem playing. But making it compulsory to play at Theaters is quite illogical type.
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                  Piyush Gupta
                  Dec 1, 2016 at 7:58 am
                  Very minute technical correction, Article 51 A is under Part IV -A which is Fundamental Duties and not Directive Principles of State Policy which is Part IV. And it is Part IV-A indeed that in 51A(a) says all the mentioned things.
                  Reply
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