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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 50 New Delhi December 3, 2016

SC’s Order on National Anthem

Monday 5 December 2016


On November 30 a Supreme Court Bench, in a striking, though interim, judgment, ruled that “all 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”.

As expected, the BJP, which upholds the banner of national chauvinism passing it off as nationalism, wholeheartedly welcomed it, insisting that the ruling would reinforce the idea of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat”. The Congress took a somewhat different stand: while supporting the order “in principle” in view of the party’s decision to back “everything that enhances respect and dignity of the nation”, it did not forget to place a caveat with the party spokesperson underlining that “there should not be, in any manner... disrespect for any of the national icons, flag or anthem”.

Thus it was left to constitutional experts to convey their severe criticism of the judgment. In the view of former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, the SC “appears to have entered the realm of judicial legislation and gone much beyond its constitutional mandate”. And he brought into focus the need for the SC to “consider the impact of the ruling on the fundamental right to practise and profess any religion”.

Another constitutional expert Rajeev Dhawan decried the judgment by accusing the SC of having taken a “very BJP line” and seeking to “integrate where it should not (by imposing constitutional patriotism)”. He further pointed out that there could be many “who profess a religion that might prohibit them to bow when the national anthem is sung even though they could be showing utmost respect to the anthem”.

One legitimately fears such an order can result in coercive nationalism, which is indeed unacceptable.

December 1 Observer

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