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Sit or stand for anthem? A tad hazy

Covai Post Network

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Amitabh Bachchan shoots for a version of the national anthem in Calcutta’s Jorasanko in January

 The hounding out of a family from a Mumbai cinema for not standing up for the national anthem has no justification in law.

Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, says: “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.”

Clause V(1) of the Orders Relating to the National Anthem of India – periodically issued by the home ministry, and which is to be read with the Act, states: “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.”

While standing up for the anthem is required, the government advises people to avoid doing so if it is played during a film. A family in Mumbai had to leave the cinema last week after some members of the audience heckled them for remaining seated when the anthem was playing. A video of the incident has gone viral.

The Maharashtra government had issued a notification in 2003 making it mandatory for all cinemas in the state to play the anthem before or after the screening of films.

However, there is no punishment prescribed by law for not standing up for the anthem anywhere in India.

The Supreme Court had in 1986 permitted schoolchildren belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian-based religious movement whose followers cannot owe allegiance to any country, to avoid singing the anthem.

In the case of Bijoe Emmanuel and Others versus State of Kerala, the court upheld the children’s freedom of religion.

In 2002, a local court in Bihar had dismissed a case against then chief minister Rabri Devi and former chief minister Lalu Prasad for not standing up when the national anthem was playing. The court found no evidence of violation of any law.

Governors Ram Naik of Uttar Pradesh and Vajubhai Vala of Karnataka have been involved in controversies over the anthem.

On October 31, when the anthem was playing, Naik asked his staff to stop it as he wanted to administer the pledge of unity to ministers gathered at the Raj Bhavan. His office later clarified that the anthem was interrupted because of a misunderstanding. In March, Vala had walked off the stage in Bangalore while the anthem was playing.

But some people continue to take pride in enforcing “respect” to the anthem.

Actress Preity Zinta was in the news last year after she tweeted that she had to “throw a guy out of the Theater as he refused 2stand up4 our National Anthem!”

Laws differ from country to country.

Japan leaves it to cities to frame regulations for the singing of the anthem Kimi ga Yo – an ode to the emperor that celebrates the country’s militarist past. Tokyo and Osaka have stringent regulations that have led to disciplinary action against schoolteachers who refuse to sing it for political reasons.

Bangladesh’s Amar Sonar Bangla plays in schools at the beginning of the workday. Civilians need to remove western headdresses and stand in attention when it is played. But there is no prescribed punishment for not singing.

The US, UK and Thailand do not have any laws, although respect to the anthem is taken seriously. Thai TV channels play the Phleng Chat Thai at 8am and 6pm every day. In the US, people are expected to place their right hand on their chest and face the source of music when the Star-Spangled Banner is playing.

Pheroze L. Vincent

Disclaimer:The views expressed above are the author’s own

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