Play National Anthem In Cinemas Before Films – SC
Let me start at the very outset by stating that what the Supreme Court has stated in its latest landmark judgment should have been there right from the time of independence way back in 1947 but what we are seeing instead is that Supreme Court feels compelled to order on November 30, 2016 that cinema halls all across the country must play the national anthem before the screening of a film and people should stand up as a mark of respect. The court also directed that the national flags should be shown on screen when the anthem is played. Every patriotic Indian should not just feel happy on this landmark judgment but also support it unitedly without any reservations whatsoever.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that in India a lot of song and dance is made about stifling civil liberties if national anthem is forced on someone or someone is forced to respect our n national flag. Nothing on earth can be more shameful! Why any Indian loving his/her motherland should have any problem singing national anthem or according respect to national flag and national anthem?
For my esteemed readers exclusive benefit, let me also inform them that the Apex Court to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism” ordered that, “All the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem as part of their sacred obligations”. Discarding notions of “any different notion or the perception of individual rights”, a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy added that, “The movie screen shall have the image of the national flag when the anthem is being played and that doors of the halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused”. Very rightly said! There should be no disturbance caused by people entering or leaving once the anthem starts being played which is possible only if the doors of the hall are shut as soon as the anthem starts being played.
To put things in perspective, the Supreme Court also laid down that, “The directions are issued for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instill the feeling within one, a sense committed patriotism and nationalism”. The Bench gave 10 days to the States/ Union Territories for compliance with its directions on national anthem.
In hindsight, the Bench has taken care to ensure that its order is not forced down on people’s throats. The Bench has therefore given reprieve by not stipulating any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played. It remains to be seen how public authorities and those managing private cinema halls would ensure the direction is complied and followed in “letter and spirit”.
What should not be lost on us is that the Supreme Court has minced no words in making it absolutely clear that, “ A time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, which is the symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.” We have seen in last few years how some people fume their anger on national anthem and national flag and mock at it. This is what they should desist from now onwards as the Apex Court has very rightly enjoined them to and show due respect to them as patriotic Indians and which they richly deserve also!
Be it noted, issuing a string of interim orders on a PIL filed by a retired engineer from Bhopal – Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the Apex Court further prohibited “commercial exploitation” of the anthem for incurring commercial benefits or using an abridged version of it, while adding that the anthem cannot be dramatized and used in variety TV shows. It held that, “It is because when the National Anthem is sung or played, it is imperative on the part of every one present to show due respect and honour. To think of a dramatized exhibition of the National Anthem is absolutely inconceivable…when the National Anthem is sung, the concept of protocol associated with it has its inherent roots in national identity, national integrity and constitutional patriotism”. Thus we see that the Apex Court banned dramatising, abridging or making money from the 52-second-long Jana Gana Mana and said the national flag, the Tricolour, must be displayed on the movie screen when the anthem is played. Movie goers must stand up and all doors of cinema halls be closed at such times to stop people moving around.
As it turned out, a Bench of Apex Court headed by Justice Dipak Misra lashed out saying that, “These days, people read things that have nothing to do with nationalism but don’t study material related to nationalism”. It was further elaborated upon by saying that, “Universalism is alright but still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge…Gyaan and Vigyan…people should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag. People must feel this is my country…who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, why can you not have restrictions in larger good.” This landmark judgment is a tight slap on those who disregard Indian flag and anthem but have no problem waving g Pakistan’s flag and anthem and shouting anti-India slogans like “Meri Jaan Pakistan, Mera Kaleja Pakistan” even while they refuse to go to Pakistan under any circumstances!
Truth be told, this must stop once and for all! Those who love Pakistan whether he/she is a Hindu or a Sikh or a Muslim or a Christian or anyone else must immediately catch the latest vehicle or bus or train or flight and leave for Pakistan once and for all just like famous singer Adnan Sami who was a Pakistani by birth loved India so he immediately came to India without beating his breast that his heart and life is in India! Who is stopping them?
It must be noted here that the Apex Court explained these directions were issued to sensitise citizens to display “love and respect for the motherland” while showing respect to the national anthem as well as national flag. It said that, “It would instill the feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.” Union Home Minister Venkaiah Naidu lauded Supreme Court’s direction that cinema halls across the country must play national anthem before screening a film, saying it will inculcate a sense of patriotism among people particularly the younger generations and I am very happy about it. But it did not clarify whether a singer engaged by an event to render the anthem for a function would be paid by the organizers of the event.
Let me bring out here that while recording a submission by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the national anthem has to be respected, the Bench also restrained printing or displaying the national anthem or a part of it on any object and in “such a manner at such places which may be disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect”. In making this order, the Bench referred to Article 51(A) (a) of the Constitution 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”. We must always keep this in our mind and adhere to it. We are an Indian first and till the last shall always remain an Indian!
Let me also bring out here that even as this Constitutional provision is not enforceable and has to act as a guiding principle, the Apex Court said that, “From the aforesaid, it is clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag.” The Court also underscored that, “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.” The Bench would take up the petition next in February 2017.
On the face of it, we see how Shyam Narayan Chouksey in his PIL had brought out before the Bench examples to illustrate how provisions of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, were being breached. He cited two incidents from 2015: first when a very short version of the national anthem was played at the swearing-in-ceremony of AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and second when Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik stopped the national anthem midway during an oath-taking function for state ministers. This should never happen again. No minister can be above national anthem or flag!
It must also be brought out here that Chouksey also attached pictures of paper food plates with the national anthem printed which were strewn on streets after a marriage function. He urged the Apex Court to lay down norms pertaining to playing of the national anthem in cinema halls, entertainment programmes and in official functions. He too deserves a lot of credit for the Supreme Court to pass such a landmark judgment!
It may be recalled here that this is not the first time that Justice Dipak Misra who shall take over as Chief Justice of India after Justice JS Khehar who shall take over in January 2017 has ruled on how and when the national anthem should be played in a cinema. Nor was it the first time that public interest petitioner Shyam Narain Chouksey had succeeded in getting a court order over an “insult” to the national anthem. Thirteen years ago, when he was a Judge in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Justice Misra had passed a detailed order on the imperatives of showing respect to the national anthem. Then, the petitioner before the High Court Bench headed by him was none other than Chouksey – the same person on whose PIL the Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Misra issued a slew of directives to the States and Union Territories.
In retrospect, Chouksey described it as a “mere coincidence” that his PIL was heard by Justice Misra in the Supreme Court too, and maintained that his petition has highlighted several recent incidents of insulting the national anthem while annexing all other orders passed in the similar matter in the past. In 2003, Chouksey moved a petition in the Madhya Pradesh High Court accusing producer-director Karan Johar of insulting the national anthem in his movie ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’. Chouksey complained that a scene in the movie depicted the national anthem in poor light. Further, he rued that people in the hall did not stand when the anthem was played.
Allowing Chouksey’s petition, Justice Misra authoring the Division Bench judgment in July 2003, had authored that the movie shall be withdrawn from all theatres and could not be shown unless the producer removed the scene depicting the national anthem in what the judgment said was “contrary to national ethos and an anathema to the sanguinity of the national feeling”. This order was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2004. But later, on a review petition moved by Chouksey, the Apex Court recalled its 2004 order and agreed to reconsider various questions of law involved in the matter.
Finally, in November 2006, the top court brought the curtain down on this case saying the questions of law were being left open and that it would deal with the issues in some other matter. The Supreme Court, however, allowed the movie to be screened in its original form, without any cuts or deletion of the scene on the national anthem.
It may also be recalled here that in his order as a High Court Judge, Justice Misra had said that, “Any person who shows disrespect to the national anthem in a way, has to be regarded involved in anti-national activity”. The Judge’s views were clear that, “No one is permitted to pave the path of deviancy and introduce the theory of totalistic individualism in the name of freedom of expression” and that the “national anthem being the honour, pride and symbol of India and it basically being the symbol of sovereignty and integrity of India, every citizen is under the obligation to respect”. There can be no denying this!
The judgment also added that, “The national anthem is pivotal and centripodal to the basic conception of sovereignty and integrity of India. It is the marrow of nationalism, hypostasis of patriotism, nucleus of national heritage, substratum of culture and epitome of national honour…every citizen should remember that every word, deed and thought by him has to be indicative of the respect for the Constitution and the national anthem.” Who can dispute this? No patriotic Indian will ever dispute this! This must be implemented in totality.
The judgment also stated that, “The Apex Court in the case of Bejoi Emannuel has clearly laid down that when the national anthem is sung and if one stands up, it should not be treated as disrespect. If the aforesaid judgment is understood correctly it requires the audience must stand.” Referring to the controversial scene in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the Judge Misra further said that, “…it runs counter to the ratio laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Bejoi…as the audience in the film do not stand up immediately.” Although Justice Misra said that it was not required for the High Court to deal with the aspect of standing up of the audience when the focus had to be on the aspect of the certification of the movie, the Judge did say that it was not correct to argue that people did not need to stand up when the national anthem is played as a part of a feature film.
It may be recalled here that in Bejoi Emannuel’s case, a two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court had ordered a school in Kerala to take back three children who had been expelled for not singing the National Anthem, although they stood during the Anthem. The children desisted from singing because of their conviction that their religion did not permit them to join any rituals except in their paryers to Jehovah, their God. The Supreme Court ruled that there is no legal provision that obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem, and it is not disrespectful to the Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when it is being sung does not join in the singing. It, however, did not deal with the issue of whether it would be disrespectful if a person chose not to stand during the National Anthem.
But the latest landmark Supreme Court ruling has cleared all the air on this. Anupam Kher who is a famous actor said that, “It is sad that the Supreme Court had to tell us this. It should be mandatory even otherwise. It is after all our National Anthem, the Indian National Anthem. We are Indians and proud of it. Being Indian is crucial part of our identity and the Anthem represents just that.” Shyam Benegal who is a veteran filmmaker while appreciating the latest landmark judgment said that, “We have had this rule for several years and I don’t remember a single person not standing up for it, ever. It is our Anthem. I don’t see why anyone here should have a problem with the SC order.” National Anthem before a film has been a practice in Maharashtra since 2003. The Supreme Court wanted the order to be widely publicised in print and electronic media. It said that, “People wake up to see the order in its letter and spirit.”
Soli J Sorabjee who is former Attorney General and eminent Supreme Court senior lawyer said that, “I don’t agree with the SC order. It is judicial legislation, going much beyond Constitution.” Rajeev Dhawan who is another eminent Supreme Court senior lawyer too said that, “SC must not overreach. It’s seeking to integrate where it should not.” Both Sorabjee and Dhawan have a point but they too must remember that courts steps in only when Executive fails to act.
There are so many issues on which we see Government doing nothing. Why mercy petition for terrorists is not being abolished or at least decided within a few days or months at the most when they are a threat not to just one or few individuals but to the entire nation whom they want to destroy completely? Why terrorists are not hanged even after they are convicted by Supreme Court and their mercy petition keeps rotting in one Ministry or the other as we see in case of killers of our former PM Rajiv Gandhi who have not been hanged even after more than 25 years of Rajiv’s most brutal assassination? Why Government hold talks and dialogues with them instead and appoint interlocutors to engage them which only boosts their morale, they regroup, rearm and restrike as ULFA did few years ago when it killed nearly 100 CRPF soldiers even while ceasefire was in operation in Assam and now recently too they killed 3 soldiers of Army?
Why Government did precious little to address the growing pollution level in Delhi due to which Courts felt compelled to intervene? Why Government is not declaring Pakistan a “Terror State” as demanded by Maulana Mehmood Madani who formerly headed the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind and former Rajya Sabha MP and the same is being demanded by Rajeev Chandrashekhar who even intends to bring a Private Member Bill in this regard? Why Government has not withdrawn Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan even after 20 years notwithstanding that India is battling terrorism sponsored directly by Pakistani Army since last more than five decades in which we have lost more than 85000 people and even though Pakistan has never granted MFN status to India till date? Why Government makes no law to debar criminals from contesting polls? Why Government does not make it mandatory for political parties to disclose all the funds that they receive from all sources? Why a veil of secrecy is kept? Why politicians can contest elections from jails even after committing most heinous crimes like rape and murder?
There are many more such troubling questions and it is just not possible to illustrate them all here but which we all know fully well! Government is clearly guilty of inaction and doing just nothing to address them even after there is immense public pressure on them. Why Government never makes rule to terminate the citizenship of those Indians who wave Pakistani flags, sing Pakistani anthem, burn Indian flags and Indian Constitution as we have been seeing even in one of India’s most prestigious JNU which is world renowned and which cannot be overlooked under any circumstances? Why Government fails to make it clear that India is for Indians and Pakistan is for Pakistanis and those who shout pro-Pakistani slogans, wave Pakistani flags and have utmost hatred for India must immediately leave for Pakistan? Why are they staying in India if they love Pakistan and not India? Why they should get Indian citizenship and Indian passport and all other facilities which should be accorded only to those who consider India as their country? But Government maintains a conspicuous and deafening silence on this! Why? Why fundamental duties are not made mandatory?
Why Government is not creating more Benches of High Court for big states like UP, Bihar and Rajasthan inspite of 230th report of Law Commission very strongly advocating for the same? Why the lawyers of West UP have been striking work every Saturday and for 6 months at a stretch as they did in 2001 and earlier also manytimes is Centre not creating a High Court Bench here even though Dr Satyapal Malik who is BJP MP from Baghpat recommends 5 more Benches for UP? Why Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jaswant Singh who recommended 3 Benches for West UP way back in late 1970s has not been implemented till now by Centre even though it had itself appointed this Commission and on its recommendations a Bench has been created Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu? Why more than 9 crore people of West UP have to travel more than 700 km all the way to Allahabad to get justice and attend court hearings which is so far away and only one Bench has been created so close to Allahabad at Lucknow just 150-200 km away? There are millions of such questions for which Government is clearly culpable and for which it has no clear answers. Just blaming judiciary alone for overreach and giving Government a clean cheque cannot be ever justified! Government’s inaction for decades compels judiciary to step in and which it must to protect our paramount national interests because no one can be above the nation! The latest landmark judgment by Supreme Court must be welcomed and implemented in totality by all of us as it is in our paramount national interest for which there can be no logical opposition on any ground whatsoever!