Mumbai Local

Family evicted from theatre for ‘disrespecting’ national anthem

A video grab of an altercation between guests at a Mumbai theatre over alleged disrespect to the national anthem.

A video grab of an altercation between guests at a Mumbai theatre over alleged disrespect to the national anthem.  

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The incident came to light when a moviegoer filmed the altercation and posted it on Twitter and Facebook, leading to an online uproar.

A family was evicted by fellow patrons at a cinema hall here on November 29 for allegedly not standing up when the national anthem was played.

As per a State government order passed in 2003, cinema halls in Maharashtra are required to play the national anthem before the start of each movie.

The incident came to light when a moviegoer in the same theatre (PVR Cinemas in the suburb of Kurla in central Mumbai) filmed the altercation and posted it on Twitter and Facebook, leading to an online uproar.

The family was untraceable, but an official of PVR Cinemas said: “Being a law-abiding company, like all other cinemas in Maharashtra, PVR Cinemas follows the practice of playing the national anthem prior to every show. On November 29, 2015, there was an altercation between guests at one of our cinemas in Mumbai. Our staff intervened keeping in mind the safety of guests and a peaceful environment for all our guests.”

Actor Anupam Kher said: “You must stand up for your pride in India. You must stand up for the soldiers on the front protecting you. It’s a matter of just a minute. It’s not that you are being pushed into doing something unbelievably bad.”

Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy said there is a Central government order that states: “Whenever the anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention.”

According to her it doesn’t have any provision for penalty, and it doesn’t take into account the rights of the disabled and the elderly who may not be able to stand and goes beyond The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971. “The provision could do with a court challenge,” she said. The 1971 Act states that, “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.”

There is, however, > no mention of the act of standing up when the national anthem is played.

Legal experts have interpreted this as sitting down is not disrespect as long as you don’t prevent others from singing or cause disturbance while it is being sung. Writer-director Charudutta Acharya said that while he accepts the sanctity of ‘Jana Gana Mana’, “It is a no-brainer that violence and goonda behaviour shouldn’t happen. You can’t take law in your hands and become jingoistic.”

Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra said, “What affronts me is when the National Anthem plays before a bad, vulgar, obscene film.”

Actor Adil Hussain said, “We must have an avenue or scope for dialogue.” In the Karan Johar vs Union of India case in the Supreme Court (2004), the court said there is no obligation to stand if the national anthem is played “in the course of exhibition”.

The court observed: “…the national anthem which is exhibited in the course of exhibition of newsreel or documentary or in a film, the audience is not expected to stand as the same interrupts the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion, rather than add to the dignity of the national anthem.”

Nundy said that the family could take the people threatening them to court under Section 503 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. “The family may have wanted to get on with the film, and the man may have genuinely had a knee injury or his not standing up could have been an act of protest, but it is not for the crowd to question and heckle. They could be liable to civil and criminal action,” she said.

She added that if the video is an accurate portrayal of what actually took place, then the family could also sue the cinema under the Consumer Protection Act for physical threat as well as for the disruption in the cinema experience.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2019 8:43:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/family-evicted-from-mumbai-theatre-for-disrespecting-national-anthem/article7934105.ece

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