The Home Ministry has asked states and Union Territories to comply with the recent order of the Supreme Court which stated that playing of the national anthem in cinema halls before the screening of feature films was not mandatory but “optional” or “directory”. In a communication to the states and UTs, the ministry however made note of the order by the Supreme Court stating that the citizens of the country were bound to show respect to the national anthem “as required under executive orders” whenever it is played on “specific occasions”.
An inter-ministerial committee has been set up to look into the issue and is mandated to submit its report within six months. According to The Indian Express, an official said that until the report is submitted by the committee, the earlier order issued by the Home Ministry making it compulsory for cinema halls to play the national anthem has been suspended.
The inter-ministerial committee has been tasked with the job to “frame the guidelines describing circumstances and occasion on which the national anthem is to be played or sung and observance of proper decorum when the national anthem is played or sung.” According to The Indian Express, officials said that the committee might provide recommendations for amendments to be made in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971.
The committee was set up by the central government after a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud stated that the citizens of India could not be forced to be patriotic and “carry patriotism on their sleeves”. The bench also said that only on the basis of a person not standing for the National Anthem, it could not be assumed whether he or she was “less patriotic”.
On November 30, 2016, an order was issued making national anthem compulsory to be played in cinema halls. However, on January 9, 2018, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra modified the order. Under the modification, it is now up to the owners of cinema halls whether they want to play the national anthem or not. Earlier, the ministry had sent four different orders to the states and union territories.
The first communication was sent on December 6, 2016, and stated that all cinema halls in the country should play the national anthem prior to the screening of feature films and each one present in the hall was “obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem”. The other three orders that were sent on December 21, 2016, March 23, 2017, and May 12, 2017, respectively, granted relief to the people who were physically and mentally challenged.