In a dramatic change of stand, the Centre on January 8 suggested that the Supreme Court modify its earlier order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screening a feature film.
It said an inter-ministerial committee has been set up to frame guidelines describing circumstances and occasions on which the national anthem is to be played or sung.
The government said the top court may “consider the restoration of status quo ante until then i.e restoration of the position as it stood before the order passed by this court on November 30, 2016”.
The government said that the inter-ministerial committee will be headed by Additional Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, with representatives from various other ministries, including the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Culture, Woman and Child Development and Parliamentary Affairs.
It would also have representatives of Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Minority Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability, the affidavit filed by Centre said.
It said the committee would have to consider a wide range of issues relating to the national anthem, and have extensive discussions with various ministries. The committee will then give its recommendations in six months from the date of its constitution.
The Centre, in its four-page affidavit, said upon consideration of the recommendation made by the panel, the government may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules in this regard, if required.
During the hearing of a PIL on October 23, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had said India was a diverse country and the national anthem needed to be played in cinema halls to bring in uniformity.
He had said it should be left open to the government to take a call on whether the anthem should be played in theatres and whether people should stand up for it.
The apex court had then observed that people do not need to stand up in the cinema halls to prove their patriotism and asked the Centre to consider amending the rules.
It had observed that it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he is “less patriotic” and the people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves”.
The court’s strong remarks had come during the hearing on a PIL filed last year by Shyam Narayan Chouksey seeking a direction that the national anthem be played in all cinema halls before the start of screening of a film.
The apex court had in its November 30, 2016, order said that “love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem as well as to the national flag”.
It had also barred printing of the anthem or a part of it on any object and displaying it in such a manner at places which may be “disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect”.
Read the text of the Centre’s affidavit below: