About 20 people have been arrested after the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all cinemas across the country to play the National Anthem before every movie screening and that all audience members should stand in respect.
Before the latest order, the playing of the National Anthem was only compulsory in the state of Maharashtra, home to the Bollywood film industry, and standing was optional. There were, however, a number of reports of cinemagoers being attacked for failing to stand, even before the court gave its ruling, as for instance in October, a wheelchair-user was assaulted in a Mumbai cinema by fellow members of the audience.
In its 30 November order, the apex court had 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. That apart, it would instill the feeling within one a sense committed patriotism and nationalism".
And all 20 arrests after the ruling have taken place in the span of just 48 hours, according to the Financial Express report.
On Monday, 12 people were taken into custody for showing disrespect to the National Anthem during the International Film Festival of Kerala when they refused to stand up while 'Jana Gana Mana' was being played, the police have said, adding that cases under IPC section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) had been registered.
"They were formally arrested and later released on bail," said Sparjan Kumar, police chief of Thiruvananthapuram.
Kumar said six of the 12 had been assaulted after refusing to stand, but that no charges would be brought against the attackers. However, he said that the cinemagoers had been charged with various related offences, including contempt of court.
"We are yet to receive a complaint over the assault. There is no investigation in (that) incident," he told AFP by phone.
After this happening, a group of people staged a protest in front of a theatre in Thiruvananthapuram. "The National Anthem is not a digital song. National flag is not an audio visual. Cinema is primarily an entertainment. Cinema hall is a place to sell entertainment," a placard held by protesters at Tagore Theatre, the main venue of the ongoing festival, said.
"Please don't degrade my National Anthem," another placard said, held by protesters who said, "We love Bharat. Nationalism cannot be imposed."
However BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekhanran said, "A section of people were trying to create an impression that nationalism is obsolete and raising objection against it is progressive...Those who find fault with the Supreme Court directive on National Anthem should fight it legally, rather than showing insult to it in the street."
Another eight people were arrested on Sunday at a cinema in Chennai after being assaulted by a group of 20 men during the interval for allegedly refusing to stand up. They were reportedly charged under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and can face up to three years in jail if found guilty.
These arrests comes after the incident at Chennai's Kasi Theatre in Ashok Nagar, where violence broke out during the interval of a Tamil film and twenty men assaulted three students, including two women for allegedly taking selfies when the Anthem was being played, according to a Firstpost report.
The Supreme Court has not specified a penalty for failure to stand, or indicate who was to take charge of monitoring rule-breaking and assigning punishment. The Supreme Court did, however, modify its order on the National Anthem and exempt physically handicapped persons from standing for the Anthem on 9 December, and also clarified that doors of theatres need not be bolted when the National Anthem is played. It said that those who may be physically disabled were to conduct themselves in a manner commensurate to that of standing up for the Anthem and the ingress and egress of crowds were to be regulated appropriately during the playing of the National Anthem.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 15:01:13 IST