National Anthem row: Supreme Court's latest observation on patriotism contradicts its 2016 order

With its observation that people cannot be "forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves", the Supreme Court on Monday hinted taking a relook at its November 2016 order on playing the National Anthem in cinema halls.

Though the apex court was of the opinion that courts cannot "inculcate patriotism among people", the bench's observations on Monday contradicted its 2016 order.

"People do not need to stand up in cinema halls to prove their patriotism," the Supreme Court said on Monday, adding that it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the National Anthem, then he is "less patriotic".

However, in November 2016, a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Amitava Roy said, "It is the duty of every citizen to abide by the ideals ingrained in the Constitution and as such show respect to the National Anthem and the National Flag."

 National Anthem row: Supreme Courts latest observation on patriotism contradicts its 2016 order

Representational image. Reuters

Observing that the society did not need "moral policing", the bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra claimed on Monday that next time "the government will want people to stop wearing T-shirts and shorts to cinemas saying this would disrespect the National Anthem."

According to The Indian Express, in 2016, the apex court ordered:  “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", to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism." It had given 10 days for the compliance of its directions.

"People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland," the bench said, adding,"At the root of protocol for National Anthem, is respect for national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism." The order came with additional caveats such as everyone present in the hall must rise and "pay respect" to the National Anthem.

On Monday, the top court wondered why it had to pass the order in 2016 when the central government was competent to regulate the playing of the National Anthem.

The Supreme Court's order on Monday said: "We think it appropriate that the central government should take a call in this regard and, if necessary, as advised, may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules. When we say 'take a call', needless to say, the discretion rests with the central government. The discretion has to be exercised without being influenced by our interim order. We may further emphasize that the discretion may be utilised to regulate in an inclusive manner or as the central government feels fit."

News18 quoted the bench as saying on Monday: "Cinema halls are places of entertainment after all. As the government, you have the power. Why do you have to throw the burden to this court? Why is there a reservation on your part to do it?" But its previous order, the Supreme Court in reference to Article 51A(a) called it "crystal clear" that it was the "sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideal engrafted by the Constitution."

The court had said, "Time has come when people should feel they live in a nation" and "even in Shastras, nationalism was accepted." The directions had considered multiple aspects of the playing of National Anthem in cinema halls. According to Live Law, the November 2016 order said, "Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened." The top court had further directed that National flag be on the screen when the National Anthem shall be played in the cinema halls.

The matter has been listed for hearing on 9 January, 2018. The playing of the National anthem remains mandatory in cinema halls till then, while the Centre has been told to take a call on regulating the issue.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2017 18:15:01 IST