India's Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a ruling that ordered the national anthem to be played before movie screenings while audiences stand, a ruling that sparked a spate of arrests and attacks on cinema-goers who refused to rise. He argued that under Article 51 (A) of the Constitution, it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to show respect to the national flag and the national anthem.
However, the court clarified that if the anthem is played, people in the hall are bound to show respect by standing up and that the exception granted to disabled people from standing during the anthem will remain in force.
SC on Tuesday, by amending its earlier order, made it optional for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening of the film.
The topic of the national anthem in cinema has come to an end.
Earlier, appearing in court Monday, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that "in my suggestion, the word shall in the order could be changed to may, leaving it to cinemas to play or not to play" the national anthem.
"It is clear as crystal that no one can be intentionally prevented from singing or cause disturbance in assembly singing the anthem", the court said, emphasising the Prevention of Insult of National Honour Act. Offenders, it said, would face punishment. It is between the Centre and the Supreme Court as of now.
While few theatre owners say they will discontinue playing national anthem, others say they will play national song Vande Mataram.
This order came in right after Centre's affidavit which informed the top court it was in favour of modification of the November 2016 order, a complete turnabout from its previous stand on the issue.
Aware of the widespread criticism of the order, mainly because of the activities of vigilante groups in enforcing it, the three-judge bench readily accepted the AG's request on Tuesday, which in in sync with the loud hints the SC had dropped during a hearing on October 23 a year ago on a PIL filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey.
The November 2016 order had reignited a debate if assertive brand of nationalistic pride was stifling civil liberties. The bench had further stated that an Indian doesn't need to wear his patriotism on his sleeves.