At a time when fundamentalists are shoving patriotism down people’s throats, which is no less than anarchy camouflaged as nationalism, the Supreme Court has reined in a part of it by stating that there is no need to stand up at cinemas while playing the National Anthem. In the Court’s own terms, an Indian need not “wear his patriotism on his sleeve". The Court criticized in severe terms the moral policing being unleashed in the society, expressing concern over the situation stating that one day this could come to “people should not wear t-shirts and shorts to movies because it will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem”. The Court’s liberal stand is laudable in the context of branding anyone with a difference of opinion as “anti-national” and requiring them to “go to Pakistan”.
The Supreme Court had held in November 2016 that national Anthem must be played in all cinema halls prior to the show, which was now challenged before the Court in a petition filed by Kodungalloor Film Society in Kerala. The Govt. supported the Order stating that it promotes unity among the people of diverse cultures, citing that it would encourage the audience to feel they are “all Indians”.
The liberal stand was adopted vehemently by J. Chandrachud, who countered every aspect of the Govt.’s pleas that suggested that the Court enforce force patriotism in the garb of Art.51-A (a) of the Constitution, requiring citizens to respect the National Flag and the National Anthem. The Court stated that it is for the Govt. which also had the power, to take the call to enforce such duties, and not that of the Court. J. Chandrachud referred to the Flag Code and observed that there was no mandate requiring people to stand up for the National Anthem being sung at a cinema hall.
The Govt. finally decided to take the call and the Court left it to the Govt.’s discretion to bring out a Notification stating whether or not it is mandatory to play the National Anthem at cinema halls. The case was heard by Hon’ble CJ Dipak Misra, J. Chandrachud, and J. Khanwilkar, and has been posted for next hearing in January 2018.
Such a decision comes as a bold reinstatement of the Constitutional provisions that profess freedom of the citizens rather than a forced sense of patriotism, which is today widely used to promote political agenda of bringing out communal divisions while making it look like the opinionated citizen is betraying the Country.