Pic courtesy – AFP
India, Nov 30 – 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.
In 2003, the western state of Maharashtra made it compulsory for cinemas in the state to play the anthem, but last year, the Madras High Court ruled against such a move in Tamil Nadu state, saying that doing so might create disorder and confusion.
On Wednesday, the two-judge bench of Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice Amitav Roy ruled that 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 the judges as saying.
The judgement has caused a stir on Indian social media, with opinion on the judgement sharply divided.
Some people were of the opinion that the judgement was unnecessary while others said there was nothing wrong with it. Many, though, found humour in the situation.
The hashtag #NationalAnthem was one of the top trends on Twitter India on Wednesday afternoon.
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.
The debate about India’s national anthem comes amid concerns over growing intolerance in the country and 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. It is unclear where the incident occurred, although some reports said it took place in the city of Mumbai.
In 2014, a man was beaten by a mob in Mumbai after his South African friend refused to stand for the national anthem. Another man in the southern state of Kerala was charged with sedition the same year for also refusing to stand.
Bollywood actress Preity Zinta found herself mired in controversy after she forcibly removed a boy from a theatre hall for doing the same.
However, many Indians have also questioned the need to “wear patriotism on your sleeve” and the relevance of token gestures like simply standing for a national anthem.