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SC orders playing national anthem before film screenings

Bench says directions were required to be issued for love of the motherland

Gulf News

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all cinema halls and multiplexes across the country to play the national anthem before screening of films, setting a 10-day deadline for the central and state governments to carry out the directive.

“The national anthem must be played in all cinemas before movie screenings and all exits should be shut during that time so that there is no disturbance. Everyone should rise for the anthem and the national flag has to be on the screen,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said in the order.

The apex court was hearing a plea by social activist Shyam Narayan Chouskey to clarify when the national anthem should be sung.

The bench said the practice would instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism in the minds of people.

“Time has come that people must feel and show respect to the national anthem, the symbol of constitutional patriotism. When the national anthem is played, it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It is time people expressed their love for the country,” the Court said.

The court also ruled that the national anthem should not be commercially exploited, dramatised or printed on objectionable material.

“People must feel this is my country. This is my motherland. You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, you do not want any restrictions? People should imbibe and express respect to the inherent quality of the anthem and the flag,” Justice Misra said.

The bench remarked that directions were required to be issued for love of the motherland.

“Too much has been indulged in the name of individually perceived notions of freedom. Directions are to be issued for love of the motherland. These days, people read things that have nothing to do with nationalism but don’t study material related to nationalism,” the Court said.

Represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the federal government agreed with the need for proper guidelines to show respect for the national anthem and the flag.

The court banned dramatisation of the national anthem in variety shows for entertainment purposes. It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem.

“The protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism. The national anthem must not be played on entertainment TV shows as it cannot be commercially exploited. There should not be any dramatisation while singing and playing the national anthem either,” the Court order read.

The national anthem is still played in theatres in some states. However, in 2003, Maharashtra made it compulsory.

Last year, the Madras High Court said that in cinema halls, people are not bound to stand for the anthem. The High Court was responding to the Union Home Ministry’s directive to all states that standing would interrupt the film screening and create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the anthem.