Should one stand when the national anthem is played or sung? Some might ask why that is even a question - you simply stand out of respect for the country. A few rebellious ones may even ask for the rationale behind standing for the national anthem. They don’t want to be dictated by others as to what to do and what not to do.
There is a viral video doing the rounds on the internet, where a group confronts a couple in a cinema theatre for not standing up for the national anthem. This quickly ensues into an altercation and abuses are flung from both the sides and the video ends as the couple who did not stand for the Anthem were forced to leave the cinema theatre.
The parliament enacted an act called the
Prevention of Insults To National Honour Act, 1971. This is an Act of the Parliament of India which prohibits the desecration of or insult to the country's national symbols, including the national flag, the Constitution, the national anthem and map of India. The specific controversy revolving around the national anthem in cinema theaters erupted after a judgement in the Supreme Court in November 2016, headed by the then Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra. It was held that, “all 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.” Role of the media Debates where held in all major TV news channels and the internet was divided, many like the Tamil cinema industry star Kamal Hassan contented that theatre was not the right place to show patriotism.
Surprisingly a year later, a different bench headed by the same Chief Justice of India, Deepak Misra, observed that people who do not stand up for the national anthem cannot be considered “any less patriotic” and asked the government of India to come up with a framework. We may not be able to decide if the media played a role in the revised decision of the Supreme Court.
Government sets up a committee
In one of the subsequent hearings of the Supreme Court, held in 2018, the Government of India submitted that it has formed a ‘Committee’ and is looking into it. It came as a surprise as the ruling BJP has called the original decision of playing the national anthem in cinema theatres as “a fantastic move”.
The Committee was mandated to submit its report in six months and since most states has their own laws regarding the subject, the Committee asked for the state’s response, since the states have not given their replies the Committee has not submitted the report yet – even though 6 months have long elapsed.
Currently the Supreme Court made it optional for the national anthem to be played in the cinema theatres. However, the apex court also added that if the national anthem is played in the cinema theatres the people in attendance should stand as respect to the national anthem.
Many people who disagree standing for the national anthem in the cinema theatres think that nobody can force them to stand up. However, for these people it should be brought to the notice that as per the Constitution of India, ‘The Fundamental Duties’ Article 51A(a) states that it is 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.
A notice titled “
Orders Relating to the National Anthem of India” by the Ministry of Home Affairs in part V(1) it states that whenever the national anthem is sung the audience must stand in attention. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 prescribes a punishment of up to 3 years of imprisonment or fine or both if a citizen violates the rules to honour the national flag or the national anthem.
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K Satish Kumar is a keynote speaker, author, the Global Head of Legal and Chief Data Protection Officer of Ramco Systems. Among the many awards he has received, the coveted are “Top 50 Legal Leaders 2019” by Legal IP Gorilla in Singapore, “GC PowerList India 2018” by London based Legal 500 , “Legal Counsel of the Year -2018” by INBA. He is actively involved in many pro bono activities through Chennai Lawyers. The author can be reached at email@example.com. Harish Parvatham had contributed to the research. The views expressed are personal. here.