Indian National Anthem No Longer Mandatory in Cinemas

Standing in respect for the national anthem when it is played remains mandatory in the country

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said playing the national anthem before screening of a movie in cinemas was not mandatory any more, reversing an order it issued more than a year ago.

Playing the national anthem in cinemas was first made mandatory in 1962 when India fought a war with China, but the practice was discontinued by the seventies. A three-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Misra took this decision at the instance of the central government, which said it was examining the issue of respecting the national anthem in depth and would come up with new rules within six months.

The apex court added that a 12-member inter-ministerial committee - set up by the Centre, would frame guidelines "describing circumstances and occasions on which National Anthem is to be played or sung and observance of proper decorum on such occasions." before disposing off the petition. Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, clarified that if a cinema chose to play the national anthem, people would have to stand up to show respect. The Home Ministry's new committee is now looking at the norms that suggest the playing of the National Anthem before movie screenings in cinema halls.

It was November 30, 2016 had when the Supreme Court had directed all the movie halls and theatres in the country to play the national anthem "Jana Mana Gana" before the start of a movie, play as well as other programmes.

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The court has also ordered that a government commission be established to recommend further decisions on whether the anthem should be played in theatres.

"It is clear as crystal that no one can be intentionally prevented from singing or cause disturbance in an assembly singing the anthem", the court said, citing the prevention of insult of national honour act. This was conveyed to the Supreme Court in an affidavit filed by Deepak Kumar, Under Secretary in the Union Home Ministry.

Giving the government a final say in the matter, the bench admitted it was not possible to give a list of occasions to play the anthem. "If any specific order is passed, we may deliberate upon it in future", said Ranjit Patil, minister of state for home (cities).

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