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The case relating to the playing of the National Anthem in cinema halls took an interesting turn today, with the Supreme Court asking the Centre to take a call on the issue.
A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud also observed that the matter lies within the Executive domain with Justice Chandrachud making some interesting remarks on patriotism in cinema halls.
The remarks came after Attorney General for India KK Venugopal agreed with playing of the National Anthem in cinema halls on the ground that it fosters national unity in a vast and diverse country like India, and is supported by Article 51A of the Constitution.
“Because of the vast diversity in this country, based on religion, language, caste, race etc., a sense of unity can be brought about by singing National Anthem in cinema halls”, submitted Venugopal.
Senior Advocate CU Singh, appearing for a film society, however submitted that there is no lis in the petition and the issue lies within the ambit of Executive. He asked,
“There is a regime in place regarding this since 2005 which is continuing. Why should the court interfere now? This petition is without any lis. He [the petitioner] says ‘here is my wishlist, implement it’..
If the object is to foster respect for National Anthem, then Cinema halls is not the place where people go for entertainment and have pop corn and cold drinks.”
Justice DY Chandrachud then proceeded to pose some interesting questions to the Attorney General.
“Why don’t you amend the Rules? Why should we take on your burden?
People go to cinema for undiluted entertainment. Tomorrow if someone says don’t wear shorts and t-shirts to cinema halls because National Anthem is being played, then where do we stop this moral policing?
Should we wear our patriotism on our sleeves?”
The Court then proceeded to order that the Centre may take a call on the issue one way or the other by issuing an appropriate notification/circular.
“Having heard learned counsel for the parties for some time, 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 utilized to regulate in an inclusive manner or as the Central Government feels fit.”
The case has now been listed for January 9, 2018. The interim order, directing cinema halls across the country to play National Anthem before the start of Cinema, remains unmodified.
Back in November last year, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had issued certain directions, including making it compulsory for theatres and cinema halls to play the National Anthem before the showing of films.
The interim order was later modified to the effect that viewers need not stand if the National Anthem is being played “as part of the storyline of a feature film, newsreel or documentary”. In the petition filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, questions regarding difficulty faced by disabled persons in standing for the National Anthem were also raised.
Read the order below.