Modifying its earlier order, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said playing the national anthem before screening movies in cinema halls was no longer mandatory.
The ruling by a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud followed an order of November 2016 when an apex court bench, including Justice Misra, had made the playing of the national anthem compulsory in cinema halls before movies are screened.
However, the court also made it clear that where the anthem is played, people must stand up in respect. Physically challenged and senior citizens who cannot stand up may be exempted from this, it said.
The central government on Monday told the top court that it has set up an inter-ministerial committee to frame guidelines to decide the circumstances and occasions when the national anthem should be played or sung with decorum and suggested that the earlier order could be reviewed.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal urged the court to modify its 2016 order substituting "shall" with "may" for the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls.
The top court by its November 30 order making mandatory the playing of national anthem in cinema halls before the start of movies described the national anthems as a "symbol of the Constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality".
It had said "...it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag".
Seeking to put on hold the November 30, 2016, order mandating the playing of national anthem in cinema halls before the start of the film, the government in its affidavit filed on January 8, 2018, told the court that the inter-ministerial committee would examine all aspects of the playing and singing of national anthem and would submit its report within six months.
The government had told the court that the 11-member inter-ministerial committee, set-up on December 5, 2017, would require extensive discussions on wide ranging issues.
The government said the committee has been set-up to look into all aspects relating to the playing or singing of the national anthem.
After considering the recommendation of the committee, the government may bring out notification or circular or rules to enforce them, the court was told.
The 2016 order had said that all viewers in the cinema halls should stand up when the national anthem was played.
Disposing of the petition by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the court allowed him and other petitioners to make representations and suggestions to the inter-ministerial committee.
The inter-ministerial committee headed by the Additional Secretary, (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs has representatives from the Defence Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of School Education and Literacy and Department Empowerment of Persons with Disability.