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  • Priyanka Bal

Is It Mandatory To Stand Up During The Playing Of National Anthem In Movie Halls?

Updated: Jan 14

Due to several trending videos in social media showing up a group of persons in a movie hall in Bengaluru shouting at few persons who chose to remain seated during the playing of the national anthem before the movie screening."Not able to spare 52 seconds for the country, but you have the audacity to sit here and watch a three-hour movie? Are you Pakistani terrorists?" a man can be heard saying on video, as he and a group of others heckled those remaining seated in their seats.

"Our soldiers are fighting for us in Kashmir and you guys are sitting here and don't even stand for the national anthem. Get out of this place," one man in the group was heard shouting.The video has elicited sharp responses in social media, with opinions pouring in both in support and opposition of the acts of those featuring in the video. In this context, it is pertinent to ask : Is it mandatory to stand up during the playing of national anthem in a movie hall?


Before looking for the answer to this, it might be useful to understand the background of the issue. On November 30, 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that playing of the national anthem was mandatory in all cinema halls before the movie show.The bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said that the order was necessary to instill a sense of "committed patriotism and nationalism" in people.

The order stated that "all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem".The mandatory direction to play national anthem in movie halls was withdrawn by the Supreme Court on January 9, 2018. The Court clarified that playing of national anthem in theaters before movie show was optional.

This was based on a request from the Union Government which sought the modification of the order on the ground that Government has constituted a committee to frame guidelines on the playing of national anthem.During the hearing which led to the recall of the November 30, 2016 order, Justice D Y Chandrachud, who was part of the bench, made oral observations questioning the rationale of imposing national anthem on movie goes.


What does the statute say?

According to Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, "whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Indian National Anthem 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."

This law nowhere mentions about 'sitting' or 'standing' while the national anthem is playing.As can be seen from the provision, it punishes one who intentionally "prevents the singing" or "causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in singing" of national anthem.So the mere act of not standing up during national anthem is not expressly treated as an offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.

Standing up the proper way to show respect. At the same time, one must keep in mind that the Supreme Court has observed that standing up is the proper way to show respect to national anthem. "Citizens or persons are bound to show respect as required under executive orders relating to the National Anthem of India and the prevailing law, whenever it is played or sung on specified occasions", the Court ordered even as it withdrew the mandatory direction for playing national anthem in movie halls.


There is a clear Supreme Court direction that a person should show respect as per the executive orders when national anthem is played or sung.


So, refusal to stand up during national anthem, though may not amount to an offence under the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act 1971, can result in the violation of an order of the Supreme Court. intimidating persons who refuse to stand up is clearly a violation of law. No one can take law into own hands.

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