The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sought “compliance” and “necessary action” by the states and union territories on the Supreme Court’s recent order stating that “playing of national anthem prior to the screening of feature films in cinema halls is not mandatory, but optional or directory”.
The MHA, in its communication to states and union territories sent recently, has also quoted the Supreme Court’s order stating that “citizens or persons are bound to show respect as required under executive orders relating to the national anthem of India and the prevailing law, whenever it is played or sung on specified occasions.”
An inter-ministerial committee, set up to look into the issue, is expected to submit its report in six months. Till the report is submitted, the ministry’s earlier order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem is suspended, said an official.
The MHA had earlier issued four separate orders to states and UTs on the issue. The first communication, sent on December 6, 2016, based on the Supreme Court’s directions, said: “All the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature films starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem.”
Subsequently, directions were issued on December 21, 2016, March 23, 2017 and May 12, 2017, granting relief to physically and mentally challenged people.
On January 9 this year, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra modified the November 30, 2016 order which had made the playing of national anthem in cinema halls mandatory. Under the modified order, it will now be up to cinema hall owners whether or not to play the national anthem.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said the committee constituted by the Centre was “looking into all aspects of the matter” and should “make its recommendations uninfluenced by the interim directions of this court”.
Headed by Brij Raj Sharma, a Jammu and Kashmir cadre IAS officer, the panel has 11 other members — mostly joint secretary-level officers nominated by the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Women and Child Development, HRD, Culture, Parliamentary Affairs, Law, Minority Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
The inter-ministerial committee is mandated “to frame the guidelines describing circumstances and occasion on which the national anthem is to be played or sung and observance of proper decorum when national anthem is played or sung.” It may also recommend amendments, if any, relating to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971, officials said.
The Centre set up the committee after a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, in October last year, observed that people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is “less patriotic”.