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Written By: Shajeeda Tajdeen

The Apex Court Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M Khanwilkar and D.Y Chandrachud modified its previous order of 30th November 2016, wherein it had made mandatory for the cinema halls to play National Anthem, the said petition was then heard by Justice Dipak Misra along with Justice Amitava Roy. The petition for modification was submitted by Attorney General K.K Venugopal on behalf of the Centre. The affidavit submitted on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs requested the Apex Court to pass an order for ‘status quo ante’, for restoring its position to the same place at it stood before the November 30th order, or to replace the word ‘may’ in place of ‘shall’, till the final call on this aspect. The Apex Court was informed by the Attorney General that it had already formed a committee who shall look into all the sides dealing with the playing of National Anthem and till the time the Committee takes any decision in this behalf the Court can lift the compulsion if it thinks fit to do so. The Apex Court decided to proceed by accepting the plea of the Attorney General and directed the playing of the National Anthem shall be discretionary in nature and there shall be no compulsion for playing the same, and while doing the same it substituted the word ‘may’ for ‘shall’ in the direction (d) of the November 30th order. But citizens are duty bound to respect the National Anthem in a situation where the cinema hall chooses to play it unless they are exempted on account of disability. Further, the Court denied to accept another petition which sought to bring the National Song at par with the National Anthem, and with this, it disposed of the petition.

The order of November 2016, was previously modified to the effect that the viewers were exempted from standing up if the National Anthem was being played as ‘a part of the storyline of a feature film, newsreel or documentary’. The Court had also asked the Centre to look into the issue by issuing a suitable notification in this behalf. Pursuant, to the direction, the Centre stated that it had already established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on December 5th, 2017 in this behalf, which included the person’s representing various Ministries such as the Home Ministry, The departments of Legal Affairs and of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministries of External Affairs. Information and Broadcasting, Defence, Culture and of Parliamentary Affairs, which shall specifically deal with all the issues and questions arising in relation to the National Anthem. This Committee expects to frame guidelines within six months of its commencement.

Lastly, the Court stated that all the citizens of the Country are under an obligation to show paramount importance to the national anthem.

But, the question still remains the same, that whether standing up for the National Anthem is the only test of patriotism?


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