India's Supreme Court has ruled that the playing of the national anthem is not compulsory before the beginning of every film screening in movie theaters. "Playing of the anthem is directive, but showing respect is mandatory", Chief Justice Misra orally observed.
The new decision, Indian news outlets reported, allows theatres to choose whether to play the national anthem.
A 12-member inter-ministerial committee set up by the Centre would come up with an extensive anthem code clearly listing out the dos and the don'ts, the court said, disposing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
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Earlier, 30 November 2016, the SC had directed all cinema halls across India to play the national anthem before the beginning of any film.
This came a day after the Centre, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, asked it to reconsider its order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening of films. "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.
In 2016, while ruling on a petition by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the bench said that playing the national anthem would "instil" a "sense of committed patriotism and nationalism". "If any specific order is passed, we may deliberate upon it in future", said Ranjit Patil, minister of state for home (cities).
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According to him, most ministries in the government would be represented in this committee.
Before the 2016 ruling, some state governments including Maharashtra had made it mandatory for the national anthem to be played in theatres across the state. "Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung", the Bench quoted Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy's words in the verdict. It was also stated that the audience must stand up during the national anthem to pay respect. "Court can't conceive of a thousand ways in which it is done", he said, adding that the petitioner could, however, take up his grievance with the committee constituted by the government.
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