In a change of stand, the Centre on Monday suggested the Supreme Court to modify its earlier order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before the screening of a feature film.
It said an inter-ministerial committee has been set up as the framing of guidelines describing circumstances and occasions on which the national anthem is to be played or sung, and observance of proper decorum on such occasions requires extensive consultations.
The government said the top court may “consider the restoration of status quo ante until then i.e restoration of the position as it stood before the order passed by this court on November 30, 2016” as it mandates the playing of the National Anthem in all cinemas before the feature film starts.
The government said it has decided to constitute an inter-ministerial committee headed by Additional Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, with representatives from various other ministries, including the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Culture, Woman and Child Development and Parliamentary Affairs.
It would also have representatives of Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Minority Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability, the affidavit filed by Centre said.
It said the committee has to consider a wide range of issues relating to the national anthem, and have extensive discussions with various ministries. The committee will give its recommendations in six months from the date of its constitution, it said.
The Centre in its four-page affidavit said upon consideration of the recommendation made by the panel, the government may bring out the requisite notification or circular or rules in this regard, if required.
During the hearing on a PIL on October 23, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had said India was a diverse country and the national anthem needed to be played in cinema halls to bring in uniformity.
He had said it should be left open to the government to take a call on its own discretion on whether the anthem should be played in theatres and whether people should stand up for it.
The apex court had then observed that people do not need to stand up in the cinema halls to prove their patriotism and asked the Centre to consider amending the rules for regulating playing of the national anthem in the theatres.
It had observed that it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he is “less patriotic” and the people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves.”
The court’s strong remarks had come during the hearing on a PIL filed last year by Shyam Narayan Chouksey seeking a direction that the national anthem be played in all cinema halls before the start of screening of a film.
The apex court had in its November 30, 2016, order said that “love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem as well as to the national flag”.
It had also barred printing of the anthem or a part of it on any object and displaying it in such a manner at places which may be “disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect”.
Passing a slew of directions, the court had said that fundamental duties in the Constitution “do not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights that have individual thought, have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible”.
“The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem as well as to the national flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling within one of a sense committed patriotism and nationalism,” it had then said.
It had also said proper norms and protocol should be fixed regarding its playing and singing at official functions and programmes where those holding constitutional office are present.