National Anthem Not Mandatory in Cinema Halls

The Supreme Court has accepted the central government’s suggestion that playing the national anthem in cinema halls should not be made compulsory. The court modified its 2016 order a day after the government said a final call can be taken once a ministerial panel makes guidelines. Discretion on the national anthem issue lies with the centre, the court said, adding that if cinema halls play the national anthem, the audience must stand up. The differently-abled though are exempt from complying with the order.

“We are happy. Part of our demands has been met. We will give our suggestions to the panel,” said Abinav Shrivastav, lawyer for the petitioner. On Monday, the Union home ministry filed an affidavit after the court, in October last year, asked it to decide on the issue following a nationwide debate on its earlier order. As per the court’s initial order in November 2016, all present in theatres must “stand up in respect” till the anthem played.

That would “instill a feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism,” the bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, who later became the Chief Justice of India, had ordered.After an appeal, another bench of the court — which also included Chief Justice Misra — modified it in October last year. “People do not need to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic,” the court said. Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the bench, had asked what was stopping the central government from amending the Flag Code.

In December last year, the Union home ministry formed an inter-ministerial committee that will be headed by a special secretary-rank officer from the home ministry. The panel will also have 10 members not below the rank of joint secretary — one each from the ministries of Home, Defence, External Affairs, Culture, Women and Child Development, Information & Broadcasting, Minority Affairs, Law, Human Resource Development and from the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities. The committee has to submit its report in six months.

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