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SC questions need for cine-goers to prove patriotism


Tomorrow there may be a demand to stop people from wearing shorts and T-shirts while going to cinema halls, because the National Anthem is being played. Where is the end for such moral policing, the court asked.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... the film that sparked the debate

The Cinestaan Team

Where is the need to insist that people going into a cinema hall to watch a film and be entertained first give evidence of their patriotism, the supreme court of India asked yesterday.

A three-judge bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra was hearing a petition filed by the Kodungalloor Film Society in Kerala to recall its interim order of 30 November 2016 which made it mandatory for cinema halls across India to play the National Anthem before every screening and for all those in the hall to stand as a mark of respect.

That order was passed by another bench headed by justice Misra, who was not the chief justice then, and justice Amitava Roy while hearing a petition filed by a retired engineer from Bhopal, Shyam Narayan Chouksey.

Chouksey said his sentiments were hurt when only a part of the anthem was played in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) and when fellow cine-goers jeered him instead of following his lead and standing up when the anthem began playing.

At yesterday's hearing, however, justice Dhananjay Chandrachud said there is no need for every Indian to "wear his patriotism on his sleeve", according to the website of The Hindu newspaper.

“Why should we assume that if you don’t stand during the playing of national anthem, you cease to be patriots?” he asked, according to a report on the legal website livelaw.in.

“Tomorrow there may be a demand to stop people from wearing shorts and T-shirts while going to cinema halls, because the National Anthem is being played. Where is the end for such moral policing?”

When the chief justice said the interim order could be modified by replacing the word 'shall' with 'may', attorney-general KK Venugopal, appearing for the government of India, suggested that it be asked to decide one way or the other.

The bench agreed and asked the Union government to decide on regulating the playing of the anthem, "uninfluenced by the court's interim order", and posted the matter for next hearing on 9 January 2018.