It is compulsory to stand to attention when the anthem is played.
India’s supreme court has ruled that the national anthem must be played in every cinema before a film is screened. Judges said the order should be enforced within 10 days and audiences must stand when the anthem is played. In the 1960s and 1970s, cinemas regularly played the anthem but the practice declined. Opinion on the court move is divided on social media. There is no uniform law in India regarding the anthem and the 29 states have had their own laws on the issue.
According to the new ruling, the anthem must be played in all cinemas, accompanied by an image of the Indian flag. “The people should stop following individual notions of freedom and have a sense of committed patriotism,” Indian media reports quoted udges as saying. The hashtag #NationalAnthem was one of the top trends on Twitter India on Wednesday afternoon. ‘Fantastic move?’
Shyam Narayan Chouksey, a 77-year-old resident of Bhopal, had petitioned the court asking for the national anthem order. “Over the years I’ve been seeing that the proper respect for the national anthem is not being paid by the common people as well as the constitutional functionaries,” he told the BBC Asian Network. Shaina NC, spokesperson for the ruling BJP party, called the court ruling a “fantastic” move. The BBC India Facebook page asked its followers for their opinion.
“Why are we moving backwards[?]” asked Krushik AV. “Patriotism is something through education…” Another follower, Sachin Sudheer, disagreed saying it was a “wonderful feeling to stand up with everyone”. Image caption Not all cinema halls play the national anthem in India.
Although there is no specific law that mandates standing for the anthem in India, the home ministry’s rules, which carry the force of law, specify that it is compulsory to stand to attention when the anthem is played. And cinemas that play the anthem often display messages asking audiences to stand up. There is some concern that people could be targeted for not “respecting” the national song:
- In October the BBC carried an article by a disabled man who described how he had been assaulted for not standing up for the anthem in a cinema
- Last year, a group of people were thrown out of a cinema hall for not standing for the national anthem
- In 2014, a man was beaten by a mob in Mumbai after his South African friend refused to stand for the national anthem
- Also in 2014, a man in the southern state of Kerala was charged with sedition for refusing to stand