Supreme Court Judge Justice D Y Chandrachud was critical of last year’s apex court order making it mandatory for movie halls to play the national anthem before the start of a film and wondered “why do people have to wear their patriotism on their sleeve?” “People go to a movie theatre for undiluted entertatinment. Society needs that entertainment”, said Justice Chandrachud who was part of a three-judge bench which heard a petition filed by a film society seeking recall of its November 30 order making it mandatory for movie halls to play the anthem.
Asking the government to take a call on the question of regulating the playing of the anthem in movie halls and other public places, the judge said “when a court mandates, the question arises then why restrict it to movies. Why not drama and other public places? … Why didn’t the Flag Code say about movies. Because there are entertainment places…Why do you have to wear your patriotism on your sleeve?”
He continued: “In a movie theatre, people may be in shorts etc. So some one may say people are wearing shorts and showing disrespect to national anthem. Where do we then draw the line on moral policing?”
Also on the bench was Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar. The CJI, who was part of the original bench which gave the November 30 order, did not seem completely in agreement with Justice Chandrachud and said: “This is not wearing patriotism on your sleeve. This is not that.”
Chief Justice Misra said the court may modify its earlier order and replace the “shall” in it with “may”.
Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General K K Venugopal too agreed with this and said the court should grant full discretion to the government whether to make any such regulation or not. “Leave it to the government to take a call. They may or may not”, he said.
However, this was opposed by some interveners in the case who said the court had full discretion and the November 30 order was already being followed.
But Venugopal opposed the recall of the entire order saying the singing of the anthem was a “unifying factor” in a country as diverse as India.
“Because of the vast diversity based on religion, race, caste and even region, it becomes necessary to have a unifying force which can be brought about by playing the national anthem so that people come out from the movie theatre with the belief that they are all Indians”, he told the bench.
The AG also referred to the fundamental duties enshrined in Article 51A of the Constitution and said it expressly states that the purpose of singing and respecting the national anthem was to “unify a diverse nation”.
However, the reference to fundamental duties did not find favour with Justice Chandrachud who said “should the court enforce each and every provision of 51A..Look at how extensive it is”. He had also questions for the government. Referring to the Flag Code which lays down the laws, practices and conventions that apply to “You take the call. Why put the burden on us. Why there is reservation on the part of the government”.
During the hearing, the court also referred to notification issued by Maharashtra and Chattisgarh even before its November 2016 order and sought to know the status of the same.
The apex court had in its November 30 order said that “love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem as well as to the
national flag”. It had also barred printing of the anthem or a part of it on any object and displaying it in such a manner at places which may be “disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect”.