Not standing during National Anthem a crime? Know all about laws, legal aspect of issue

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New Delhi, Dec 1: Recently an incident came to fore where a Muslim family was forced to leave the movie theatre for not standing up during the national anthem.

As soon as controversy hit the headlines, people were seen reacting sharply over the issue. On social media, so many people justified the act without knowing the legal provision of the issue.

 Standing for Anthem: Laws explained

One may not have idea that if a person doesn't stand up during ongoing national anthem that doesn't mean he could be punished under the law. Legal provisions are little vague on this front.

Know all about the legal aspect of the controversy

What laws say?

We have Section 3 of The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 which deals with the issue. The act 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."

This act nowhere says that standing up is mandatory and someone can be punished if he will not do so.

What Government says?

Reportedly, Home Ministry also nowhere mentions clearly that sitting during anthem is offence or standing up is mandatory. It only states that one must stand in attention whenever the national anthem is being played out.

According to Indian Express, a govt order on January 5, 2015 states, "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."

Supreme Court's judgment

According to a PTI report, in 2005, the Supreme Court said that if a person does not stand in attention during the national anthem, it does not amount to crime.

Judicial Magistrate Narendra Jain said, "It is the moral duty of a person to stand in the attention position when the National Anthem is played but if they do not do so, then, prima facae it is not a crime under the 1971 Act, and, under the 2002 National Flag Code, no mention of any crime is stated if a person is not standing at attention".

Earlier in 1985 the top court had given similar judgment saying that there is no provision in the law which obliges anyone to sing the national anthem. The court had ordered a Kerala school to take back students who were expelled for not singing national anthem.

The three students had given argument that their conscience didn't allow them to sing it because they sincerely believed that doing so would constitute an act of unfaithfulness to their God, Jehovah.

What experts say?
Legal luminaries also agree that there is no clear law to deal with the issue. Experts believe that it is all about norm and convention that one should stand up during anthem. But there is no law which enforces us to do so.

Suhrith Parthasarthy, a Madras High Court advocate was quoted as saying, "It is not only ridiculous but unnecessary as well. The law is not clear and does not prescribe any punishment for not standing, moreover, a person has the right to exercise his freedom of expression".

Expressing similar view, senior counsel and former advocate general of Maharashtra Darius Khambata said, "It's a difficult issue really. The broad view is that you respect the anthem. And respect is shown by everyone standing up, then you do the same, unless you're incapable of doing that".

Popular cases

M Salman case

In August 2014, a 25-year-old student from Kerala was arrested for allegedly not standing up and hooting when the national anthem was played out at a theatre in Trivandrum. He was charged under Section 124 A of the IPC and Section 66 A of the IT Act.

Later Kerala high court gave him bail after denying the same twice for the offence. Giving yet another landmark judgment, the Court observed that accused's crime didn't fall in the category of offence amounting to the security of the nation.

Shashi Tharoor
In 2008, a case under section 3 of Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1977 was registered against then Union minister Shashi Tharoor.

He had sung the National Anthem the American way, by placing the right hand on the left side of the chest. The act had created huge uproar in the national media. Later court had given judgment in Tharoor's favour.

Kushal Tandon Vs Ameesha Patel spat

Recently, a huge controversy broke out after ex-Bigg Boss contestant Kushal Tandon claimed that disrespected the national anthem as she did not stand up for the national anthem at a movie theatre in Juhu.

Kushal took to his social networking site and said, "Wel was watching this movie at Pvr Juhu. Had a last row, the national anthem was on bang on down my sear on the next row .Opp me saw one girl sitting wile the anthem was on. And every one was standing up..I was like who is she y is she not standing up wile the anthem is on May be she is not wel ? Or may be handicapped .?But then I saw.. she was super normal checking on her mobile wile every one was standing..." 

Later, actress also took to the Twitter and lashed out at Kushal for maligning her. She stated her ‘monthly problem' as a reason for not standing up during anthem.

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