The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem ended. It said the practice would “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.”

Cinema halls should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played, it said.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said it is time people expressed their “love for the motherland.”

“People must feel this is my country. This is my motherland… Arrey, who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, you do not want any restrictions?” Justice Misra remarked.

The Bench said it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.

“…people should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag,” Justice Misra said. People should imbibe and express respect to the inherent quality of the anthem and the flag.

On ‘perceived notions of freedom’

The Bench said too much has been indulged in the name of “individually perceived notions of freedom.”

The Union government, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, said it completely agreed with need for specific guidelines to show respect and honour for the national anthem and the flag.

In its interim order, while awaiting a detailed response from the Centre, the court issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag.

The court banned dramatisation of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes.

“Dramatisation at this point is absolutely inconceivable,” Justice Misra, who dictated the order for the Bench, observed.

The court banned the display of the national anthem on any “undesirable or disgraceful places.” It said such display “tantamounts to disrespect.”

It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem.

Justice Misra said all the doors of cinema halls must be closed when the national anthem is being played to prevent people from entering or exiting.

Wants ‘people to see the order in its letter and spirit’

The Bench said the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in “our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism.”

It said that the order should be distributed to Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories. It shall be widely published by the electronic and print media so that “people wake up to see the order in its letter and spirit”. The order should be implemented within a week hence.

“Universalism is alright but little still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge… Gyaan and Vigyaan,” Justice Misra observed.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea to clarify when the national anthem should be sung.

The PIL was filed by Shyam Narayan Chouskey seeking a set of parameters on what amounts to abuse of the anthem.

The Supreme Court’s decision to consider this PIL followed after a wheelchair-bound man was assaulted by a couple at a cinema hall in Panaji for not standing up during the rendition of the anthem.

The petition sought the anthem to be played in cinema halls across the country before screening of films and also issue a protocol for the playing or singing of the anthem at functions where constitutional dignitaries are in attendance.