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Playing National Anthem in cinema halls not mandatory (for now), SC modifies earlier order

After a hearing that lasted more than an hour, the Supreme Court today modified its earlier order, and directed that playing the National Anthem in cinema halls is not mandatory.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud accepted the submission of Attorney General KK Venugopal to modify the order of the November 30, 2016.

The Centre, through AG Venugopal, informed the Court that a Committee has been constituted to look into all aspects relating to the National Anthem and that the mandate by the Court could be lifted till the Committee takes a decision.

Though the petitioner opposed the same, the Court proceeded to accept the AG’s submission.

It modified the order of November 30, 2016 and held that playing National Anthem in cinema halls is not mandatory, but only discretionary. However, citizens are bound to show respect to the Anthem in case the cinema hall chooses to play it.

The Court then disposed of the petition. It also refused to entertain another petition seeking equal status for the National Song Vande Mataram on par with the National Anthem.

Back in November 2016, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had issued certain directions, including making it compulsory for theatres and cinema halls to play the National Anthem before the showing of films.

The interim order was later modified to the effect that viewers need not stand if the National Anthem is being played “as part of the storyline of a feature film, newsreel or documentary”.

In October last year, the Court had directed the Centre to take a call on the issue one way or the other by issuing an appropriate notification/circular.

Pursuant to this order, the Centre has decided to constitute an Inter-Ministerial Committee to “consider wide ranging issues relating to the National Anthem and to have extensive discussions”. This Committee is expected to frame guidelines on the topic within six months from its constitution.

In the meanwhile, the Centre had asked the Court to restore status quo ante, i.e. restoration of the position as it stood before the November 30, 2016 order was passed.

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