In a bid to inject a nationalistic fervour among the citizens of India, the Supreme Court has instructed all cinema hall operators in the country to play the Indian national anthem before screening films.
In some Indian states like Maharashtra, the Indian national anthem is already played before movies but the initiative often turns sensitive with incidents where people have been beaten up for not standing in respect of the anthem.
To infuse a sense of patriotism and loyalty towards the country, the Supreme Court in India has directed all cinema hall operators in India to play the Indian national anthem, written by the Indian polymath from Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore in 1911, before the start of a film.
The audience is now also obligated to stand up in respect of the national anthem and the flag, which has invited questions of social and political freedom. Political leaders, filmmakers and people from others walks of life are grilling the practicability of the decision.
“This is a judgment that cannot even bear the slightest weight of analysis, and does not bring any credit to the court. It would be easy to dismiss it as an outlier, a poor performance by a couple of judges… The poor quality of these kinds of orders brings out in the open what many citizens feel, but are often too afraid to express: The Supreme Court has been singularly bereft of the kind of imaginative legal and intellectual leadership that establishes court’s authority,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, columnist at The Indian Express (a national daily).
Many others resorted to social media platforms to express their views.
why #NationalAnthem should be restricted to only cinema halls..why shouldn’t every shop ask customer to see a video of it b4 entering shop?
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) December 1, 2016
Why single out cinema halls for #NationalAnthem ? Why not play it in planes, trains, malls, every public platform ??
— rahul dholakia (@rahuldholakia) December 1, 2016
Hope Supreme Court orders Indian Parliament to sing our Nation Anthem before each session. Often its drama too is movie like #nationalanthem
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) November 30, 2016
The court added that the screen should have an image of the national flag when the anthem is being played and doors of the halls must be closed to avoid any type of disturbance.
“Love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem as well as the national flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling of patriotism and nationalism,” said the bench.
According to the court, the time has come when the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty-bound to show respect to the national anthem, which is the symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.
The court further banned commercial exploitation of the anthem for commercial benefits or using any altered version of it, while adding that the anthem cannot be dramatised and used in any television show, because dramatisation of the national anthem is inconceivable.
The bench referred to Article 51(A) (a) of the Constitution while passing this ruling, which states that it shall be 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.
The apex court has set a deadline of ten days for states and union territories to effectively implement the new law. However, the next petition will be taken up by the bench in February next year.
However, the court did not impose any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence, it is yet to be seen how authorities and cinema hall managers ensure that the order is followed.