One and half years after the Supreme Court made the playing of the National Anthem compulsory in movie theatres across the country; the Court modified its order on Tuesday ending the mandatory nature of the directive.
The earlier required all theatres to play the Anthem before every showing and for patrons to stand to attention, as required by the law. However, on January 8, 2018, the Centre informed the Court that it would set up a ministerial panel to create guidelines for this, and asked the Court to withdraw its order.
Accepting the Centre’s suggestion, the Court modified its order, stating that the choice to play the anthem would be left to cinema owners.
The Court also stated that if a cinema decided to play the National Anthem, then patrons would have to stand in attention as usual.
The order, which was originally passed by the Court in November 2016 with the statement that it would “instil a feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism,” triggered a nation-wide debate on the issue.
It also led to several cases of assault, where cinegoers were attacked for not standing. In a few cases, those attacked happened to be disabled, leading the Court to issue a clarification in April 2017 that the disabled were exempt from standing to attention during the National Anthem.
The Court had asked the Centre to give a final decision on the issue and amend the Flag Code if needed, back in October 2017, but the Centre has not acted with the speed the Court wished.
Criticising the government’s inaction, Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the bench, asked what was stopping it from amending the Flag Code.
“Nowadays, the anthem is played during matches, tournaments and even Olympics where half of the crowd does not understand its meaning… You can amend it and say where to play the national anthem and where it can’t be done,” the judge had said.