NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said playing of the national anthem in cinema halls is only a directive and not mandatory before the screening of a film.
The court left the choice of whether to play the anthem to the discretion of individual cinema hall owners.
However, the court clarified that if the anthem is played, people in the hall are bound to show respect by standing up and that the exception granted to disabled people from standing during the anthem will remain in force.
The Centre, in its affidavit filed before the apex court on Monday, said a ministerial panel will examine whether any amendments are required to the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act of 1971 to expand or specify the meaning of respect to the national anthem.
The committee which was constituted on December 5, will submit its report in six months and is likely to have its first meeting on January 19.
The bench further noted that all citizens are bound by the 2012 order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, wherein a set of guidelines was laid down on singing and playing of the 52-second national anthem.
Enumerating the relevant part of the 2012 order, the court said there were three things that these guidelines highlight — one, the national anthem is a salutation to motherhood, second, there cannot be an exhaustive list of occasions and third, decorum must be maintained.
Therefore, the bench said, until the time the government takes a final call based on the committee’s recommendations, the 2012 order should be followed.
Home Ministry officials said the committee will be headed by special secretary (Border Management), the charge of which is being held by additional secretary Bipin Bihari Mallick.
The other ministries involved in the process include defence, external affairs, culture, women and child development, parliamentary affairs, information and broadcasting, minority affairs, law, department of school education and literacy and the department of empowerment of persons with disability.
Panel to make holistic recommendations
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra modified its order of November 2016 and said that since the central government has set up a committee, the panel should look into all issues relating to the national anthem holistically and then make suitable recommendations.