Indian National Anthem No Longer Mandatory in Cinemas

Nathional anthem is no longer compulsory in cinemas: Supreme Court

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It is no longer mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening a film.

Following the Centre's submission, the SC disposed of the petition and said its order making the national anthem optional would remain in operation till the committee came out with recommendations.

The Supreme Court further observed that though it is not mandatory for the cinema halls to play the National Anthem before a movie, if at all a National Anthem is being played, "Citizens or persons are bound to show respect as required under executive orders relating to the National Anthem of India and the prevailing law, whenever it is played or sung on specified occasions".

On November 30, 2016, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had passed an interim order that said, "All 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".

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. Offenders, it said, would face punishment. This was conveyed to the Supreme Court in an affidavit filed by Deepak Kumar, Under Secretary in the Union Home Ministry.

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.

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

"Proper decorum has to be maintained", the court said, asking the government to fill the gaps, as pointed in the PIL, in the prevention of insult of national honour act. It led to a debate and Kerala's Kodungallur Film Society approached the Supreme Court, seeking recall of the order.

The petitioner had said the 1971 act did not define what constituted disrespecting the national flag. A year later the order faced criticism from within the court, with Justice Chandrachud asking if everyone "should wear our patriotism on our sleeves".

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