Urging the Supreme Court to reconsider its order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening of films, the Centre Monday said an inter-ministerial committee is being asked to look into the matter and the government will take a call once the committee submits its recommendations in six months.
This has been conveyed to the Supreme Court in an affidavit filed by Deepak Kumar, Under Secretary in the Union Home Ministry. The national anthem matter is due for hearing Tuesday before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
The affidavit said the court “may consider” restoring the position that existed prior to November 30, 2016 when a bench of Justices Dipak Misra — before his elevation as CJI — and Amitava Roy asked cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and directed that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem concludes to “instil” a “sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.
The 2016 order led to a debate and a film society approached the court, seeking recall of its order. During a hearing in October 2017, the bench of Chief Justice Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre to take a call on regulating the playing of national anthem in public places, and also asked it to come out with rules.
The affidavit, filed in response to this direction, said “the framing of guidelines describing circumstances and occasions on which the National Anthem is to be played or sung, and observance of proper decorum on such occasions, require extensive consultations with various ministries. It is submitted that the government has decided to constitute an inter-ministerial committee headed by Additional Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, with representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability”.
The committee, it said, “has to consider wide-ranging issues relating to the National Anthem and has to have extensive discussions” and “will give its recommendations in this regard in six months time from the date of its constitution”.
The affidavit said the committee “has been constituted to look into all aspects relating to the singing or playing of the National Anthem” and on receiving its recommendations, “the government may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules in this regard, if required”.
The government told the court that till then, it may consider restoring the position that existed prior to the November 2016 order when it was not mandatory for movie halls to play the national anthem.
“This Hon’ble Court may consider the restoration of status quo ante till then, i.e. restoration of the position as it stood before the order passed by this Hon’ble Court on November 30, 2016 with regard to direction ‘d’ in the said order to the extent that it mandates the playing of the National Anthem in all cinemas before the feature film starts,” it said.
During the October 2017 hearing, Justice Chandrachud had hinted at modifying the 2016 order, observing “why do people have to wear their patriotism on their sleeve?… People go to a movie theatre for undiluted entertainment. Society needs that entertainment”.