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Daily Editorial – Compulsory National Anthem in Cinema Halls

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that the National Anthem must be played in public theaters across the country before a movie, minus any dramatization. It also ordered that the national flag be shown on screen when the anthem is played.

The Supreme Court’s decision to consider this PIL followed after a wheelchair-bound man was assaulted by a couple at a cinema hall in Panaji for not standing up during the rendition of the anthem.

Supreme Court’s Ruling

  • Cinema halls must play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem ended.
  • Cinema halls should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played.
  • The Bench said it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971.
  • All the doors of cinema halls must be closed when the national anthem is being played to prevent people from entering or exiting.

Ban on commercial uses of national anthem

  • Court issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag.
  • The court banned dramatization of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes.
  • The court banned the display of the national anthem on any “undesirable or disgraceful places.
  • It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem.

Purpose of Ruling

  • According to SC, practice would “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.”
  • People should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag.
  • People should imbibe and express respect to the inherent quality of the anthem and the flag.
  • Too much disrespect of national symbols had been indulged in the name of “individually perceived notions of freedom”

Arguments against the SC Ruling

  • National Anthem is an expression of one’s reverence for the country. It stirs the soul, makes us feel patriotic even when things around us make us angry about the state of the nation.
  • But enforced patriotism is simply transforming a private emotion into a tokenistic public gesture.
  • National anthem before a film with a subject like sexual comedy would not a good option.
  • Now people would be forced to stand up, not because they want to, but because of a fear of being labelled a traitor, or worse, screamed at or assaulted by self-styled nationalists.
  • The same was happened with poet, disability activist and writer SalilChaturvedi, who could not stand up for the national anthem as he was in a wheelchair.

Past Laws

  • In 2003, the Maharashtra Assembly passed an order mandating the playing of the national anthem before the start of a movie.
  • In the 1960s, the national anthem would be played at the end of the film. But as people simply filed out after the movie, this practice was stopped.
  • Last year, the Madras High Court said that in cinema halls, people are not bound to stand for the anthem.

Bijoe Emmanuel vs State of Kerala

The school students were expelled for not singing the national anthem, although they remained standing.

At the time, the Supreme Court had observed, “There is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem nor is it disrespectful to the National Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung does not join the singing.”

Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971

Act has its genesis in Article 51 (a) of the Constitution

Article enjoins a duty on every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem.

Act states that whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the national anthem or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

  • Thus, none of the directions given by SC have any statutory backing.
  • There is no law which is being implemented, nor are any fundamental rights being violated in the absence of such a law.


Indians have always loved their motherland and never shy of making sacrifices but this kind of imposition is bound to put off even the most patriotic. Hence if any part of the government want to inculcate patriotism in the general public, it must try to change their heart, rather than forcing it.

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