Case – Shyam Narayan Chouskey v. Union of India

Facts

A PIL was filed in Supreme Court of India to clarify when the national anthem should be sung.  The PIL was file by Shyam Narayan Chouskey who was seeking a set of parameters on what amounts to abuse of the anthem. The petition sought the anthem to be played in cinema halls across the country before screening of films and also issue a protocol for the playing or singing of the anthem at functions where constitutional dignitaries are in attendance. Mr Chouskey in his PIL had brought before the bench examples to illustrate how provisions of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, were being breached. He cited two incidents from 2015: first when a very short version of the national anthem was played at the swearing-in ceremony of AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa as chief minister of Tamil Nadu and second when Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik stopped the national anthem midway during an oath-taking function for state ministers. Chouksey also attached pictures of paper food plates with the national anthem printed which were strewn on streets after a marriage function.

Decision

To instill “committed patriotism and nationalism”, the Supreme Court ordered that “all the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem” as a part of their “sacred obligation”. The bench gave 10 (ten) days for compliance with his direction. The court order, however, does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence, it remains to be seen how public authorities and those managing private cinema halls would ensure the direction is followed “in letter and spirit.” In making this order, the bench referred to Article 51(A) (a) of the Constitution, which states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem”.The Supreme Court’s decision to consider this PIL followed after a wheelchair-bound man was assaulted by a couple at a cinema hall in Panaji for not standing up during the rendition of the anthem.

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