Almost eleven months after the Supreme Court asked cinema halls to play the National Anthem before the screening of films; the apex court has now revisited the order and asked the Centre to form appropriate rules and regulations. The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud turned down a plea by the Centre to not revisit the National Anthem order. The apex court instead asked the Centre to take a call on it as the issue falls under the purview of the government.
The court put its view rather strongly with Justice Chandrachud being especially critical of the order passed on November 30 last year. Referring to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, Justice Chandrachud mentioned that there are rules and regulations already in place that tells how and in what circumstances the National Anthem should be respected.
He said that a petitioner just simply can't walk up to the court with a wish list and expect the court to act on it. Last year, a man called Shyam Narayan Chouksey filed a PIL seeking directions that the National Anthem be played in cinema halls before every screening, following which the Supreme Court bench had issued the order.
"Why must we wear our patriotism on our sleeve?" Justice Chandrachud asked.
Justice Chandrachud further added, "If we give this direction today, where will we stop? Tomorrow someone will come and say nobody can wear shorts to the cinema hall because the National Anthem is going to be played." The court also said, "Where do we draw the line at such moral policing?"
Not mincing his word, Justice Chandrachud also asked if there should be "court-mandated patriotism". "You don't have to sing the National Anthem in the movie hall to demonstrate your nationalism," the Justice mentioned. "People go to the cinema for undiluted entertainment," he clarified.
Putting the final nail on the coffin, Justice Chandrachud said, "The point is that values are inculcated - not mandated."
The Chief Justice suggested replacing 'shall' with 'may' in the order, leaving it to the discretion of the theatre-owners. However, it was eventually decided that the Union Government would be given some time to decide on this matter and if they want to bring in a rule. Till the decision is made, playing the National Anthem in the halls would remain mandatory. The Supreme Court has also asked the Centre to make a decision, uninfluenced by the last order.
The next date is January 9, by which the Centre will have to come up with a decision.