There is no need to compulsorily stand up when the national anthem is sung or played as part of a film or documentary, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while clarifying its earlier order in the wake of reports that people have been assaulted for not rising when the anthem was played during a film.
In its earlier order, the apex court had invoked what it called “constitutional patriotism“ to say that people need to stand up when the national anthem is played before the screening of a film. However, it was not clear whether the requirement to show deference to the national anthem applied even when it was played as part of the script.
The court's clarification came in light of news reports of people being beaten and bullied in cinema halls for not standing up for the national anthem when it was played in the middle of Aamir Khan-starrer `Dangal'.
“It is clarified that when the national anthem is sung or played in the storyline of a feature film or as part of the newsreel or documentary , apart from what has been stated in the order dated November 30, 2016, the audience need not stand,“ a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said.
The bench, however, said that the Supreme Court's interim order, making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening of films, would continue.
Importantly, as part of the arguments on Tuesday, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said singing the national anthem should be made mandatory in schools as part of instilling patriotism in the population.
The court had said in its November order that the national anthem must be played in all cinema halls before a film was screened and everyone present must stand up. “Time has come when people must respect the national anthem which is part of constitutional patriotism. People must feel that it is their country. It is because of the country that they are enjoying freedom and liberty,“ the bench had said.
The apex court order was criticised by some sections and several petitions filed seeking recall of the verdict. Challenging the SC's direction, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan said the court should not have passed the order as making the national anthem mandatory at places of entertainment was “popcorn nationalism“ and amounted to “moral policing“. The Centre, however, stoutly defended the court's order and said there was no compulsion to sing the national anthem but people must stand up. Rohatgi also said singing of national anthem should be made mandatory in schools.
“Feeling of patriotism should start from schools.Singing of national anthem should be made part of the school curriculum and it should be made compulsory for students to sing national anthem. It is needed to instil a sense of patriotism in children,“ the attorney general told the bench.
Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for Kodungallur Film Society, said forcing the national anthem on people in cinema halls would not promote nationalism. He said the Centre, in the early 1980s, had discontinued the practice of mandatorily playing the national anthem at the end of films as people were not giving due respect to the anthem.
The bench, after hearing all sides, said it did not mean to do moral policing and the issue needed to be debated in a larger perspective.
“Our order may be correct or may be incorrect. This has to be debated and decided after hearing all sides,“ the two-judge bench said while posting the case for final disposal on April 18.