New Delhi, January 9, 2017
Going back on its earlier stand, the Central government requested the Supreme Court on Monday to recall its order that made playing of the National Anthem compulsory in cinema halls.
The affidavit, submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, apprised the Court of setting up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to frame new guidelines on playing of the National Anthem after considering “wide ranging issues.”
“Upon consideration of the recommendations made by the Committee, the government may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules in this regard, if required,” said the affidavit, giving a timeline of six months for the panel to submit its recommendations.
It added: “This Hon’ble Court may consider the restoration of status quo ante until then, i.e. restoration of the position as it stood before the order passed by this Court on November 30, 2016 with regard to direction ‘d’ in the said order, to the extent it mandates the playing of the National Anthem in all cinema halls before the feature film starts”
Notably, direction (d) issued by the top court in its order on November 30 stated: “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.”
The government has now told the Court that pending the recommendations by the Committee, this direction could be suspended.
The matter is scheduled for hearing on Tuesday.
The Attorney General for India has so far staunchly opposed any prayer for recall of the court order, stating that the directions will help inculcate values and cohesiveness among Indians.
But in the last hearing in October, the Court had rebutted the AG, saying values are inculcated in various ways but not by mandates of courts. Hinting at recalling its 2016 order, the Court had further observed that it is not required of an individual to wear patriotism on their sleeve all the time, and that not playing the national anthem in cinema halls won’t make people anti-national.
Eleven months after its November 30, 2016 order, a three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, had wondered why the court had to pass such an order when the central government was competent to regulate the playing of the national anthem.
Questioning its own order, the bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, observed that the court was inclined to do away with the mandatory direction, leaving the discretion with the cinema halls to decide.