Let me start penning my thoughts by first and foremost pointing out that in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on January 9, 2018 said that cinema halls across India no longer needed to play the national anthem before film screenings thus reversing an order passed over a year ago. The ruling comes just a day after the Centre asked for “status quo ante” – or a return to the situation before the court had passed its November 2016 order saying that it would frame fresh rules. Now cinema halls will not be obligated to play the national anthem before the screening of film begins and it would be a purely voluntary exercise.
I too fully endorse this viewpoint. Why wear patriotism on your sleeves? Senior and eminent advocate of Supreme Court Rajeev Dhavan rightly said that, “The anthem had a ceremonial significance and a “sacred element” which should not be trivialized by playing it four times a day in cinemas”. What is the point of doing all this useless showoff when our politicians don’t have the guts to terminate Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan even after more than 22 years having conferred it way back in 1996 and that too unilaterally? Kuwait has not lost a single soldier at hands of Pakistani army or terrorists still it has ordered all Pakistan is to leave Kuwait and has severed all relations with it as they felt that Pakistanis are a threat to their security! Can Indian politicians ever dare to do so?
What is the point of doing this useless showoff when more than our lakh soldiers have been killed directly by cross border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and still our leaders don’t have the guts to do what Rajeev Chandrashekhar who is independent Rajya Sabha MP from Bangalore demanded that Pakistan should be declared a “terror sponsor country” and Maulana Mehmood Madani of Jamiat-e-Ulema-Himd demanded that Pakistan be labelled as “Aatankistan” rather enjoy paying uncalled trips to Pakistan and some even castigate their own leaders and PM from Pakistan? What is the point of doing this useless showoff when our leaders shamelessly invite Pakistani invader Gen Pervez Musharraf within 2 to 3 months of Kargil war masterminded by him in which we lost officially more than 600 soldiers and he himself conceded that he had entered 15-16 km inside Indian territory just one night before Kargil war to motivate his soldiers to slaughter our soldiers like animals and we saw how Captain Saurav Kalia and 5 soldiers of 4 Jat Regiment were after being captured alive tortured continuously for more than 20 days and were blinded with hot iron rods, beaten mercilessly and maimed and private parts were cut and put in the mouth and then dead body was handed over to India and not just this he threatened himself to nuke India if Indian soldiers dared to step even one step inside their territory as he feels Pakistan alone has the unfettered right to invade still he was given a red carpet welcome and leaders of all major parties felt extremely overjoyed to have company with him while having breakfast, lunch and dinner? Not just this he even awarded dreaded Al Qaeda terror leader Iliyas Kashmiri who was earlier in Pakistani Army with one lakh rupees as cash prize for presenting him a severed head of an Indian soldier Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar on 27 February 2000 as reported in all English dailies and promised to always keep it with him as a “fond memory” and Pakistani media proudly published Iliyasi carrying head of Bhausaheb?
Not just this he terms dreaded terror leaders like Osama Bin Laden, Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salaluddin as “Osama to hero hain ji hero. Hafiz Saeed to hero hain ji hero. Bharat ke liye yeh aatankwadi hain paar Pakistan ke liye to yeh hero hain ji hero bilkul aasli freedom fighter hain ji”! Can there be anyone more shameless than us that we still forgot everything and accorded him VVIP treatment? Commonwealth countries had expelled Pakistan but India got them readmitted!
Don’t our politicians still shamelessly sing national anthem? Does it serve any purpose other than fooling illiterate people? Don’t our politicians always keep an eye on votebank politics and for preserving their votebank are ready to exploit any issue like Ram temple and Babri Masjid and due to this we have seen how riots broke out in 1993 and how thousands lost their lives in riots, bomb blasts etc?
What is the point of doing this useless showoff when our politicians don’t have the courage to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act under which any person amassing crores of rupees is just jailed for a few years or may be even one year and pay just a few lakh rupees as fine and then again indulge in the same old money minting tactic of corruption? What is the point of doing this useless showoff when corrupt people openly mock at our laws and so do killers and other criminals and even after committing worst crimes are able to play with the system because of cases pending for many decades due to which they die a natural death or escape punishment because of many loopholes in our laws and even if convicted come out within few years from jail and there too the rich and powerful are able to manipulate all sorts of comforts by bribing those who are corrupt?
To be sure, a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that, “The interim order passed on November 30, 2016 is modified that playing of national anthem prior to screening of a film is not mandatory or directory”. Before the 2016 ruling, some state governments which includes Maharashtra had made it mandatory for the national anthem to be played in theatres across the state. Legal experts said that any such executive order by states would still stand. Those executive orders shall not be affected by this landmark judgment.
It is noteworthy that the court specified that if the anthem is played in theatres, moviegoers will have to stand in a show of respect, but said that differently abled people would be exempt. The exemption granted to the disabled persons “shall remain in force on all occasions”. The Bench while disposing of a PIL which had asked to specify what would constitute disrespect and abuse of national anthem said that, “Citizens and people living in India are bound to show respect”. The court said that the Prevention of Insult of National Honour Act 1971 make it “clear as crystal that no one can be intentionally prevented from singing or cause disturbance in assembly by singing the anthem.” The Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act 1971 states that, “Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”. The court said that the offenders would be penalized.
Truth be told, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra clarified that it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings. The court left the choice of whether to play the anthem or not to the discretion of individual cinema hall owners. However, if the anthem was played, patrons were bound to stand up in respect.
To put things in perspective, the court took note of its judgment in the Bijoe Emmanuel versus State of Kerala which dealt with three children belonging to the Jehovah Witnesses sect who refused to sing the anthem in the school assembly though they stood up in respect, to drive home the point that standing up was a sign of “proper respect” to the anthem. “Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung,” the Bench quoted Justice O Chinappa Reddy’s words in the verdict.
What cannot be missed out here is that the modification will be in place till the Union government takes a final decision on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial Committee on the occasions, circumstances and events for the solemn rendering of the national anthem. The Committee will examine whether any amendment is necessary to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, to expand or specify the meaning of ‘respect’ to the national anthem. The Committee which was set up on December 5, 2017, will submit its report.
It must be add here that the Union Home Ministry has appointed a 12-member inter-ministerial Committee led by Additional Secretary BR Sharma which would take a final call on the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places. It will recommend changes, if needed, in the existing laws. The first meeting of the Committee which was set up on December 5 2017 and which will have officers of the rank of Joint Secretary from 11 Ministries and departments of the Union government will be held on . It will submit its report .
Let me hasten to add here that the decision came after the Supreme Court in October 2017 said “the people cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it could not be assumed that if a person did not stand up for the national anthem, he or she was “less patriotic”. Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted that the Committee would conduct a comprehensive study of the issue. The government began the hearing by referring to its latest affidavit, suggesting that the court modify its November 30, 2016 order and give cinema hall owners discretion till the Committee took a final decision.
Going forward, the Supreme Court accepted the Centre’s submission that an inter-ministerial Committee constituted on was looking into all aspects relating to the playing and singing of the national anthem and let the government have a final say. Supreme Court had justified its November 2016 order making it mandatory to play the national anthem in cinema halls saying it was “for the love of the motherland”. It had also said that the national flag be displayed on the screen while the anthem was playing.
It may be recalled here that Justice Dipak Misra before he became the CJI, headed the Bench that issued the order which had been backed by the government. But the order came in for criticism from the court in October 2017 when Justice DY Chandrachud very rightly asked if people needed to stand up to prove their patriotism. I fully agree with Justice Chandrachud and ask those who keep making it a prestigious issue that why inspite of prominent leaders like Shashi Tharoor, Subrahmanium Swamy and many others that MFN status for Pakistan must be revoked, all Pakistanis must be ordered to leave India just like Kuwait has done and Pakistan be declared a “Terroristan” as India led by Sushma Swaraj who is External Affairs Minister addressed it in UN but still officially is not ready to take any hard action against Pakistan where it hurts them most even though its closest ally US has frozen all aid to Pakistan?
Leaders have just no convincing answer except evading it or giving lame excuses! Endless cries of families of slain soldiers and innocents have no effect at all on our heartless politicians surrounded by many black cat commandos for their security 24 hours who are not ready to withdraw MFN status to Pakistan under any circumstances! Instead they foolishly resort to senseless slogans like “Bharat mein rahane hain to Vande Mataram kehana hain, Bharat mein rahane hain to rashtra gaan gaana hain. Jinhe nahin gaana hain who jain Pakistan”!
It is a different matter that no party including BJP has the guts and courage to make a law by which those who wave Pakistani flags and burn our national flags and openly chant anti-Indian slogans which burns even moderates like me with fury are made to vacate India and go to Pakistan or any other country of their choice! To sing or not to sing anything should be best left to the concerned individual himself/herself and politicians must instead concentrate on appointing more Judges, more high court benches in big states like UP where there is just one bench established by Jawaharlal Nehru way back in 1948 but since then no leader till now in 2018 seventy years later is ready to set up even one more bench here anywhere and people of remote areas like those in West UP and Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur are compelled to travel more than 800 to 900 km on an average all the way to Allahabad as there is no bench anywhere else in such as big state and another lawless state Bihar has not even one bench!
UP has maximum pending cases and still it has least benches whereas peaceful states like Karnataka, Assam and Maharashtra have 3, 4 and 3 benches each! MPs from West UP like Rajinder Aggarwal from Meerut earnestly keep demanding benches at Meerut, Agra and Gorakhpur and Satyapal Singh who was just made Union Minister and is MP from Baghpat also had demanded benches at Meerut, Agra, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Varanasi which is PM constituency but Centre is not ready to create even one more bench anywhere just like predecessor Congress! To act earnestly and sincerely always so that people gains most is the best way to be nationalistic. Just like if a bench is created in West UP more than 9 crore people will benefit and litigants would not be compelled to travel many times without reservation whole night all the way to Allahabad to get justice. Not tolerating nonsense from any foreign country is the best way to show nationalism! But how much we keep tolerating cross border terrorism is known worldwide and it requires no elaboration!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.