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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  1. P
    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
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      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
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        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.
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          ankit kumar
          Dec 1, 2016 at 6:41 pm
          just ridiculous
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            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!"
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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.
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              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.
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                    Pramod Kaimal
                    Dec 2, 2016 at 5:57 am
                    Is showing patriotism JUST Standing ONLY two days a year at Independence and Republic day national anthem singing event time IF one is visiting the event, and/or at school/insution (IF it is held at the school or insution) event, because any way "singing is against the tenets of their religious faith" That is: there should be NO occasion when patriotism be shown in the land of india. IT is JUST a Standing Instruction ... all ARE patriotic never show it; as there should be no anthem singing event any where any time ha ha ha ha what a humane FUNNY LAND of Liliputs ha ha ha pramodkaimalatgmaildotcom
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Sankar Narayanan
                      Dec 1, 2016 at 11:53 am
                      Jana Gana Mana was composed by Rabi Tagore to welcome a British king who visited India after his coronation. And we have this song as our national anthem. What a shame!
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                      1. S
                        Sankar Narayanan
                        Dec 1, 2016 at 11:50 am
                        Terrorism bogey has been enormously drilled into the people's mind to terrorise them. How many people are perishing each day due to terror attacks? Patriotism has become the first refuge of scoundrels after May 26, 2014.
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                        1. R
                          rajan Karunakaran
                          Dec 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm
                          SC shall not have interfered with liberty of citizens .
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                            R K
                            Dec 1, 2016 at 6:11 am
                            Duty of an Indian citizen to abide by Indian consution not enforceable? If so, what is is basis for all other laws, the laws that derive their writ from the consution to be enforceable? lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Comparing insistence on chanting of "Bharat Mata Ki Jay" with dictate to show respect to the National Anthem can only be because of gross miss understanding of the issues, or more likely, a sinister and deliberate attempt to undermine our sense of nation. Universalism may be a worthy ideal. However, as long as the world is divided into nation-states, belonging to a nation, is an important and fundamental ideny of its citizen. It is this ideny that provides a citizen with liberty and freedom. And it is important to show respect to the symbols of this ideny as it strengthens one's sense of belonging and of solidarity with fellow citizens. Overdose of nationalism is certainly bad But so is getting carried away by a notion of individual liberty without any bounds.
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                            1. S
                              Sitaram
                              Dec 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm
                              SC should have done better.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                Sitaram
                                Dec 4, 2016 at 3:07 am
                                First time SC has done some really silly stuff; It does not suit SC's stature. Now one can only hope it is an aberration and such things do not repeat.
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                                1. S
                                  Shamsul
                                  Dec 1, 2016 at 4:05 am
                                  This judgement of Supreme Court shows once again how the highest court of justice is turning its attention from real issues faced by Indians like farmers' suicides, poverty, violence against women/Dalits/minorities, 'bank robbery' of lakhs of crores of rupees of public banks by crony capitalists. The love and respect for national symbols is being trivialized to 'standing up as mark of respect' to National Anthem, in cinema halls only. Why only cinema halls? Why not every day sittings of Supreme Court/High Courts/lower courts, opening time of the restaurants/shops/factories, gatherings like marriages/corporate general meetings/casinos/bars and start of every cl/lecture/bus/train/flight (to name few)?
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                                    sunny goel
                                    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:35 am
                                    CORRECTION - Part IV-A and its provisions were added by the 42nd Consutional Amendment Act, 1976 and not by the founding fathers of our consution as put forward in the article above.
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                                      Tony
                                      Dec 1, 2016 at 5:25 am
                                      Patriotism cannot be encouraged by a diktat of the supreme court (or for that matter any govt). It is high time that people realize this.
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                                        V.S.Malhotra
                                        Dec 1, 2016 at 3:44 am
                                        Very well explained! Patriotism cannot be generated by orders of a court. This is one of those atudes of mind which evolves voluntarily from within the minds of the people. And this can happen only if we love our country from the core of our heart- much in the way the members of a family love and protect their home and family. If this feeling of sense of belonging is generated in the hearts of the people, what to talk of the grownups even children will automatically spring up from their seats and come to attention, the moment they hear the announcement about the start of singing of the National Anthem. But to generate such a sense of belonging among the citizens of a country is a very difficult task to achieve. The only way to make it possible is to make every citizen feel that our nation is like one big family of which he or she is a rightful and full member. Just as in a family the love that flows from the parents automatically gives birth to this atude of mind, among the children, a similar flow of love from the parents of the nation to all its 125 crore children will sure generate such a feeling among all the citizens of the country. The parents of the country are our elected representatives in our country’s parliament and legislatures whom the sons have chosen to run the affairs of their big family. It is their moral obligation to think of how this can be done.
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                                          Augustus
                                          Dec 1, 2016 at 4:46 am
                                          Congrats Indian Express, at a time when electronic media houses and print media are getting confused over their roles in a democracy IE's editorial is heart warming, it is the judges, politicians and civil servants and government employees who should learn what is patriotism and loyalty to the country, it is these fellows who are singularly responsible for the situation India is in, had these rascals been upright there would not have been a dynasty rule or a Congress, it is not secularism or liberalism which ruined India, it is sheer subservience for money, the judges looted India along with politicians and in collaboration with the civil servants, is their any single government employee who is not corrupt?
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                                            kahoor Khawaja
                                            Dec 1, 2016 at 5:15 am
                                            I feel regret while reading this write up and delibrate how can a common man can trust upon apex court as the directive is against the fundamental right to conscience and diverge the main issue like one third( 1/3) of the world poor resides in India like, Dowry, people dying along Indo-stan border, and govt biased stances to Pro-alignment with US and Russia. These directive and measure to strengthen the Nationalism would no longer yield good results.....
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