Playing of National Anthem in Cinema Halls is to Instil Patriotism

Those who have watched movies in cinema halls in the early seventies, they must have memories of the National Anthem being played at the end. Every movie goes used to stand up when the 52 seconds Gurudev Ravindra Nath Tagore written National Anthem was played out. However, with the passage of time, under the pressure of particularly left leaning intellectuals, this practice was given up. Many phoney thinkers started berating and rubbishing the playing of National Anthem in the cinema halls. They deprecated it by saying that there was no point in insisting for the national song which did not gel with the theme of entertainment.

Thanks to the Supreme Court of India it has again been made compulsory for all cinema halls across the country to play the National Anthem, albeit in the beginning of the movie, and everyone in the hall will have to stand up in reverence to the song. In ‘Shyam Narayan Chouksey vs Union of India’ the bench of Justices Dipak Mishra and Amitava Roy has said in an interim order that ‘sometimes National Anthem is sung in various circumstances, which are not permissible and can never be countenanced in law. The emphasis is on showing requisite and necessary respect when the National Anthem is sung or played. The assertion is that it is the duty of every person to show respect when the National Anthem is played or recited or sung.’

In the context of the same ruling the Court gave the following directions, which are to be scrupulously followed: ‘(a) There shall be no commercial exploitation to give financial advantage or any kind of benefit. To elaborate, the National Anthem should not be utilized by which the person involved with it either directly or indirectly shall have any commercial benefit or any other benefit. (b) There shall not be dramatization of the National Anthem and it should not be included as a part of any variety show. It is because when the National Anthem is sung or played it is imperative on the part of every one present to show due respect and honour. To think of a dramatized exhibition of the National Anthem is inconceivable. (c) National Anthem or a part of it shall not be printed on any object and also never be displayed in such a manner at such places which may be disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect. It is because when the National Anthem is sung, the concept of protocol associated with it has its inherent roots in national identity, national integrity and constitutional patriotism. (d) 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. (e) Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema halls 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. (f) When the National Anthem shall be played in the cinema halls, it shall be with the National Flag on the screen. (g) The abridged version of the National Anthem made by any one for whatever reason shall not be played or displayed. The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.’

This is not for the first time that controversy has arisen with regard to the National Flag and Anthem. Thirty years ago, in 1986 Justice Chinnappa Reddy of the Supreme Court in ‘Bijoe Emmanuel and others vs State of Kerala and others’, which is also known as Jehova’s Witnesses case had delivered a judgment which was heavily weighted in favour of personal and religious liberty than for the patriotic reverence to the National Anthem, which mandated every citizen to stand up at the time of playing out of anthem. The judgement gave freedom to an individual to stand up or not stand up at the time of the playing of the Anthem.

The brief conspectus of the case is: Three children in Kerala belonging to a sect called Jehovah’s Witnesses, who worship only Jehovah-the Creator and none other. They refused to sing the National Anthem: ’Jana Gana Mana’because, according to them, it is against the tenets of their religious faith-not the words or the thoughts of the National Anthem-but the singing of it. They desisted from actual singing only because of their aforesaid belief and conviction but they used to stand up in respectful silence daily, during the morning assembly when the National Anthem was sung. A Commission was appointed to enquire, which reported that the children were “law abiding” and that they showed no disrespect to the National Anthem. However, under the instructions of Deputy Inspector of Schools, the Head Mistress expelled them from school. A representation by the father of the children to the education authorities requesting that the children may be permitted to attend the school pending orders from the Government having failed, the appellants filed a Writ Petition in the Kerala High Court seeking an order restraining the authorities from preventing them from attending the school. A single Judge and then a Division Bench rejected the prayer. The issue came up to the Supreme Court, which ruled that ‘there is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem nor is it disrespectful to the National Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung does not join the singing. Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing. Standing up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung but not singing oneself clearly does not either prevent the singing of the National Anthem or cause disturbance to an assembly engaged in such singing so as to constitute the offence.’

“Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God, Jehovah, is the supreme ruler of the universe. Satan or Lucifer was originally part of God’s organization and the perfect man was placed under him. He rebelled against God and set up his own organization in challenge to God and through that organization had ruled the world. He rules and controls the world through material agencies such as organized political, religious, and financial bodies. Christ, they believe, came to earth to redeem all men who would devote themselves entirely to serving God’s will and purpose and He will come to earth again and will over-throw all the powers of evil.” “These beliefs lead Jehovah’s Witnesses to proclaim and teach publicly both orally and by means of printed books and pamphlets that the British Empire and other organized political bodies are organs of Satan, un-righteously governed and identifiable with the Beast in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Also, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians entirely devoted to the Kingdom of God, which is “The Theocracy” that they have no part in the political affairs of the world and must not interfere in the least manner with war between nations. They must be entirely neutral and not interfere with the drafting of men of nations they go to war. And that wherever there is a conflict between the laws of Almighty God and the laws of man the Christian must always obey God’s law in preference to man’s law.

The Court further said that ‘it is true Art. 51-A(a) of the constitution enjoins a duty on every citizen of India “to abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.” Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing. Parliament has not been unmindful of the ’National Honour’. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act was enacted in 1971. While section 2 deals with insult to the Indian National Flag and the Constitution of India, Section 3 deals with the National Anthem, which says that‘Whoever, intentionally prevents the singing of the National Anthem or causes disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which extend to three years or with fine, or with both. We, therefore, find that the Fundamental Rights of the appellants under Art. 19(1)(a) and 25(1) have been infringed and they are entitled to be protected. We allow the appeal, set aside the judgment of the High Court and direct the respondent authorities to re-admit the children into the school, to permit them to pursue their studies without hindrance and to facilitate the pursuit of their studies by giving them the necessary facilities.’

The interim order passed by the Supreme Court in Chouksey’s case, in fact, is no contrary to the kernel of the Jehova’s Witnesses as is being made out by some people. This judgement does not for joining the chorus but it is only asking that the National Anthem must be played in cinema halls at the start of the movie. It has only revived the tradition that was abandoned for decades and that is why; this judgment is being hailed by all nationalists throughout country.

In almost all countries of the world respect to the National Flag and National Anthem is non-negotiable. One wonders, why some people in India make fuss stretch the concept of freedom of speech and expression too far and try to give a different colour and meaning to the national symbols. There is a section of society in India which says that they will not sing ‘Vande-Mataram’ because it is contrary to their religious beliefs, which ordains them not to bow their heads to anybody except to the God. There is no doubt; that with such ideas and beliefs, the spirit of nationalism gets diluted. Hopefully, the so-called champions of the freedom, be they the politicians or religious leaders etc. will realize the supremacy of the Constitution, National Anthem and the National Flag and submit to the decision of the Supreme Court.

Parmanand Pandey