New Delhi, Jan 9: B R Sharma, a special secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, will head a 12-member inter- ministerial committee which would take a final call on the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places and recommend, if needed, changes in existing laws.
The first meeting of the committee, which will have joint secretary-level officers from 11 ministries and departments of the central government, will be held on January 19, a home ministry official said. It will submit its report within six months, the official said.
Set up on December 5 last year, the committee will have representations from the ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, External Affairs, Women and Child Development, HRD, Culture, Parliamentary Affairs, Law, Minority Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
The formation of the inter-ministerial committee was mentioned today by a Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, that made playing of national anthem in cinema halls before screening of movies optional, modifying its earlier order.
The Centre's decision to set up the committee came after the top court in October last year observed the people "cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves" and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is "less patriotic".
The home ministry official said the committee will give recommendations regarding regulations of playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act 1971.
The bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said the committee should comprehensively look into all the aspects relating to the playing of the national anthem and allowed the petitioners to make representations before the panel.