Supreme Court modifies 2016 order, says National Anthem not mandatory in theatres

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

Amending its order that had been in force for a little over a year, the Supreme Court made it optional on Tuesday for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening a film and spared moviegoers of a compulsory display of patriotism by having to stand up.

Venugopal requested a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud to modify the 2016 order by replacing "shall" with "may" since the Centre had constituted a 12-member inter-ministerial committee to look into all aspects related to singing and screening of the national anthem. They also said that if the anthem is played, citizens are required to show respect. "The committee will give recommendations regarding regulations of playing and singing national anthem and to suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act 1971", said the official.

The Centre's decision had come after the top court in October past year observed that the people "cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves" and it can not be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is "less patriotic". Offenders, it said, would face punishment.

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In an affidavit on Monday, the Centre asked the court to put on hold the November 2016 order, as it needed six months to come out with the anthem guidelines. This statement from the Supreme Court of India has come has come as a whiff of fresh air for innumerable movie buffs who visit the theatre to get some relaxing moments to spend with their family, friends and loved ones.

While few theatre owners say they will discontinue playing national anthem, others say they will play national song Vande Mataram.

But at the same time the law made it clear that the anthem "has not only to be respected but it's a respect as a salutation to the motherland", it said. It had acted on a PIL filed by Shyam Narayan Chowksy. "If any specific order is passed, we may deliberate upon it in future", said Ranjit Patil, minister of state for home (cities). The bench had further stated that an Indian doesn't need to wear his patriotism on his sleeves.

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