National Anthem In Cinema Halls No Longer Compulsory, Says Supreme Court

Representational image. People standing for national anthem in a cinema hall

In its order on November 30, 2016, the Supreme Court had directed all the cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must "stand up in respect" till the anthem ended.

According to reports, this move by the government has come after the top court in October had asked the government to rethink on the issue of its playing the National Anthem in cinema halls before a movie. Six months time was sought by the Centre for completing the entire exercise.

The government has now told the Court that pending the recommendations by the Committee, this direction could be suspended. The court agreed to let the practice of playing National Anthem in cinema halls continue until the Centre came up with new recommendations, if at all.

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On October 23 past year, the case in which the SC had ruled that cine-goers must stand up for the national anthem to show their "respect for the motherland" saw a major twist with serious differences emerging between Chief Justice Dipak Misra who authored the order and the judge who shared the bench with him. The government had asked the apex court to make the move optional till the a panel decides a course on the move. Venugopal said the Centre has constituted a 12-member inter-ministerial group to study and suggest possible changes in the Insult to National Honour Act, 1971 for incorporating measures to enhance respect for the national anthem.

Later, however, while hearing a petition by a film society challenging the November 2016 order, a three-judge bench had questioned the order.

The views of the Centre were expressed after the Supreme Court in the last hearing hinted at modifying the order on the compulsory playing of the national anthem so as to stop moral policing in the name of patriotism. Chandrachud had said then, adding that people go to movie halls for "undiluted entertainment". He had observed that these days, "the anthem is played during matches, tournaments and even Olympics where half of the crowd does not understand its meaning".

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