What constitutes disrespect to our National Anthem??


@Rahul Dev

The recent incident of Actress Priety Zinta throwing out a boy out of the movie theatre for the reason that he refused to stand up for the National Anthem brings into light a very interesting question. What all constitutes as disrespect to our National Anthem? Morally, of course all citizens and even non citizens should stand up or join in the national anthem as a courtesy if not anything else. However, legally speaking, the position is somewhat different which is explained in the ensuing paragraphs.

Article 51-A (a) of the Constitution of India enjoins a duty on every citizen of India “to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National flag and the National Anthem”. Although it is the duty of every citizen to respect the National Anthem it is not clear as to what will constitute disrespect. Section 3 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971 states that whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Indian National Anthem or causes disturbance 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. A logical interpretation of this Section implies that only those who “intentionally prevent” or “cause disturbance” to the singing of the National Anthem are liable to be prosecuted under the Act. Again the question arises: What is intentionally preventing and causing disturbance?

In the landmark verdict of Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala, the Supreme Court held that there is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem nor is it disrespectful to the National Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung does not join the signing. This fairly settles the point that not joining in the National Anthem is certainly not an offence however a corollary to it is that the person should at least stand respectfully while the National Anthem is being sung. There have been numerous occasions where people have been arrested and charged with outrageous charges such as sedition or as in the Priety Zinta incident thrown out of a public place for not standing. On a bare reading of the provision it can be inferred that until and unless somebody intentionally prevents or causes disturbance to the singing of the National Anthem he cannot be booked under the Act. Therefore the legislative intent of Parliament is clear in this regard that even sitting peacefully during the National Anthem should not be a crime. However, there can be conflicting views on it

In N.R. Narayan Murthi v. Kannada Rakshana Vakeelara Vedike, a question arose as to whether playing musical version of the Indian National Anthem instead of singing it, is an offence punishable under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971? Further in Joy Kaitharath v. Shashi Tharoor a question arose whether singing of National Anthem with the hands placed on the hearts instead of standing in attention position violated Section 3 of the Act. Thankfully, the Court dismissed both the cases on the grounds of non merit finding that the defendants in both the cases had not intended any disrespect.

However, in Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India where the question before the Madhya Pradesh High Court was whether the depiction of National Anthem in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham violated the aforesaid provision of law. It was contended that the suddenness of the introduction of the National Anthem created a shock in the audience as a whole and since the audience was not in a position to react it amounted to insult to the national anthem as it can never be sung anywhere as a surprise item. The Court remarkably held that this amounted to an insult to the national anthem and directed the said scene to be deleted from the movie. It is pertinent to note Clause V (1) of the Orders relating to the National Anthem of India issued by the Government of India which states: “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of 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.” Consequently the said judgement was set aside by the Supreme Court in Karan Johar v. Union of India.

Nationalism, Patriotism and unquestioning allegiance to your country are undoubtedly duties of every citizen of this great nation; however such nationalism cannot be coercive in nature. It cannot and should not be imposed on people especially through such superficial and inane notion that if you don’t stand up for the National Anthem you are anti-national. Nationalism is not a concept that can always be put on display but is a belief that involves an individual identifying with or becoming attached to one’s nation and for that surely, the fact that you stand up or not is inconsequential.

@Author is a student of 5th Year, Institute of Law, Nirma University

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Nilanjan at 2015-11-30 14:30:50

In response to Mr. Shasank Shekhar:- This age old concept of Tagore wrote it for Queen was a lie spread by British News papers of that time. Tagore cleared this confusion and said it's not for queen but for India his country. The poet wrote in a letter written in 1939: "I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity."

Shashank Shekhar at 2014-12-18 11:11:39

First of all our so called National Anthem doesn't talk about our Nation it praises the Crown of Britain. It is a piece of flattering done by "KAVIGURU" or "GURUDEV" to his Queen. But still I think that an individual must stand when National Anthem is played as it is declared to be National Anthem unless temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled. I mean, what is the problem in standing? Why can't one stand? It is as simple as saying "I love you" to the beloved.. "I care for you" to someone you care, to your child, "I will miss you" to parents these thing are needed to be told. And please don't tell that actions speak,these are only for the sake of showing. So we should wait for a war to happen and then go to the war and show our patriotism or nationalism... No, we can't.Every Citizens don't go to war.We should respect it by standing.

ZUBEDA MAJID KHAN at 2014-11-24 23:38:45

I second the views expressed by the author. Not standing while the National Anthem is being sung does not mean one is holding anti national sentiments. On one hand standing or nkt standing while national Anthem is being sung in public is under public scrutiny, While on the other hand the same is not under public scrutiny when heard at our home or on our personal gadgets. There can be instances of people who might not be standing hearing the same when at home or any other place sheilded from public scrutiny. Prohibition under the Constitution and Prevented by Section 3 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act relates to causing Insult to the reputation, honour, Dignity of the National Anthem. Not standing on listening anthem cannot be said to be amounting to Insult to the honour of the same. No doubt that listening the National Anthem fills us with pride and it is this pride that makes us stand by our own on listening the National Anthem. Partriotism and Nationalism comes from within and Standing or Not Standing on Hearing National Anthem can be no yardstick to judge anybody's partiotism. I think Miss Preity Zinta should have acted more maturely. Such type of immature behaviour is not expected from a public figure like her. Zubeda Majid Khan





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