No need to Stand for National Anthem: Indian Supreme Court

Standing for National Anthem in movie theatres not a measure of patriotism Supreme Court

The SC said that it can not be assumed that a person is "less patriotic" if they do not stand up for the national anthem. As the government, you have the power. The PIL was filed by one Shyam Narayan Chouksey, last year, seeking directions that the national anthem should be played in all the cinema halls before a film begins. Justice Chandrachud's remarks have done well to remind us that love for the country need not be tested at every turn and that symbolic displays of nationalism are, in certain contexts and spaces, a curb on individual freedoms.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said India was a diverse country and the national anthem needed to be played in cinema halls to bring in a feeling of uniformity.

The court had directed all movie halls and theatres to play the national anthem before the start of a play, movie or any other programme and said audiences must stand up and pay respect to the national anthem in a bid to instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.

As center was keen, Supreme Court has hit on its head and told to review the order. "People do not need to stand up in cinema halls to prove their patriotism", the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said. "You know what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, right?" By passing the buck to the government, the SC in a way reminded one of its 2013 order on Section 377, in which case too it said that the government must legislate.

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The enforced patriotism of the November 2016 order has been criticised much. People with disabilities are exempt from standing during the anthem but the government issues guidelines on how they can show respect when the national anthem is being played. When we say "take a call", needless to say, the discretion rests with the central government. The Court may amend its earlier order to make the playing of the anthem optional, he said. Standing during national anthem can not be a test of someone's patriotism.

Putting the final nail on the coffin, Justice Chandrachud said, "The point is that values are inculcated - not mandated". Many tweeted that the court's move was a relief because citizens should not have to sing the anthem to prove their patriotism.

The next hearing will be conducted on 9th January. Do we stand, or not?

Though the apex court was of the opinion that courts can not "inculcate patriotism among people", the bench's observations on Monday contradicted its 2016 order. What can we infer on what the government's thinking is on this issue from that action alone?

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