The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016 ordered all 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. It said the practice would "instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism."

This has garnered mixed reactions. While many have applauded the apex court’s move, apparently aimed at rooting patriotism in the citizens, it also raised many eyebrows, including that of our our 5th Maharaj Kaul Memorial Lecturer, Lawrence Liang, the Bangalore-based legal researcher/lawyer and co founder of the Alternative Law Forum. According to him:;

It is clear that the law requires an active act of disturbance to constitute an offence, but does it include a quiet refusal to stand for the national anthem?"

Screenshot from Kabhi Khushi, Kabhi Gham when the Indian national anthem is being sung

This is clearly the winter of Karan Johar’s discontent. Barely had the controversy over the illegal fine imposed on him by the Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena died down when the ghost of a controversy about his earlier film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G), has resurfaced in the form of the mind-boggling order from the Supreme Court making it mandatory for the national anthem to played in cinema halls before the screening of a film:

All the 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. 

Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened.

When the National Anthem shall be played in the Cinema Halls, it shall be with the National Flag on the screen.

The national anthem is “the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality”, the judgment says. “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. (sic)The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

The order by Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy is a follow up to an earlier Madhya Pradesh high court judgment (also delivered by Dipak Misra) delivered in response to a case filed by the same petitioner in Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India.

Read the rest of the article which was originally published in The Wire on 1/12/2016 HERE

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