TO INSTILL “committed patriotism and nationalism”, the Supreme Court Wednesday ordered 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”. Discarding notions of “any different notion or the perception of individual rights”, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy added that the movie screen shall have the image of the national flag when the anthem is being played and that doors of the halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused.
“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 committed patriotism and nationalism,” said the bench, giving 10 days for compliance with its direction.
According to the top court, “a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, which is the symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.”
The court order, however, does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence, it remains to be seen how public authorities and those managing private cinema halls would ensure the direction is followed “in letter and spirit.”
Issuing a string of interim orders on a PIL filed by a retired engineer from Bhopal, Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the apex court further prohibited “commercial exploitation” of the anthem for incurring commercial benefits or using an abridged version of it, while adding the anthem cannot be dramatized and used in variety TV shows.
“It is because when the National Anthem is sung or played, it is imperative on the part of every one present to show due respect and honour. To think of a dramatized exhibition of the National Anthem is absolutely inconceivable…when the National Anthem is sung, the concept of protocol associated with it has its inherent roots in national identity, national integrity and constitutional patriotism” it held.
Recording a submission by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the national anthem has to be respected, the bench also retrained printing or displaying the national anthem or a part of it on any object and in “such a manner at such places which may be disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect.”
In making this order, the bench referred to Article 51(A) (a) of the Constitution, which states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem”.
Even as this constitutional provision is not enforceable and has to act as a guiding principle, the top court said: “From the aforesaid, it is clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag.”
The court also underscored: “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”
While it granted 10 days for states and union territories to give effect to the directions, the bench would take up the petition next in February, 2017.
During the hearing, the bench observed: “Universalism is alright but little still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge… gyaan and vigyaan…people must feel this is my country…who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, why can you not have restrictions in larger good.”
Chouksey, in his PIL, had brought before the bench examples to illustrate how provisions of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, were being breached. He cited two incidents from 2015: first when a very short version of the national anthem was played at the swearing-in ceremony of AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa as chief minister of Tamil Nadu and second when Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik stopped the national anthem midway during an oath-taking function for state ministers.
Chouksey also attached pictures of paper food plates with the national anthem printed which were strewn on streets after a marriage function. He urged the court to lay down norms regarding playing of the national anthem in cinema halls, entertainment programmes and in official functions.