Bengaluru, Dec 13: In Kerala at least 6 persons were taken into custody for disrespecting the National Anthem. The six persons were accused of refusing to stand up while the National Anthem was being played at the International Film Festival of Kerala. It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had recently passed an order making it mandatory for cinema halls to play the National Anthem.
The court also stated that all those at the theatre must rise and stand when the National Anthem is being played the National Flag displayed on the movie screen.
The question now is under what provision will these persons arrested be booked. Matters related to the National Anthem fall under the purview of the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act of 1971. The Supreme Court's order in itself is vague. The order says 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.
The SC order is vague:
Legal experts who helped decipher the verdict tell OneIndia that the order says the people are obliged to stand up. It does not say that people must compulsorily stand up. In this context it would be interesting to look at what the act says.
The act is silent about people have to compulsorily stand up when the National Anthem is being played.
Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 says, " As provided in Section 3 of the Act, whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana 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.
The Act is silent about standing up for the National Anthem. It only deals with those who internationally prevent the singing of the Anthem. One must also read into the January 2015 order of the government. The order states that, "whenever the National 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."
A close look at this order suggests that standing is mandatory unless it is being played in the course of a newsreel or documentary. The point is that no where does this order prescribe a penalty.
The Supreme Court had in 1987 said that there is no legal provision that obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem. The order however was silent on whether it is obligatory to stand during a National Anthem.
In August 2014, the police in Kerala slapped sedition charges on seven persons including two women after they refused to stand up when the Anthem was being played at a theatre. The Kerala High Court while granting bail to one of the accused said that there was no offence amounting to the security of the nation against the accused. The prosecution has failed to come up with anything to suggest that the accused was involved in a criminal offence.