SC modifies National Anthem order, exempts differently abled

National Anthem being played at Sathyam S2 Cinemas in Spectrum Mall, Perambur, Chennai.   | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

The Supreme Court on Friday modified its November 30 order to exempt physically challenged or physically handicapped persons from standing up in cinema halls when the national anthem is played before film screenings.

On November 30, the Supreme Court had ordered cinema halls to mandatorily play the anthem and directed all those present there to stand up to show respect. The court said the practice would instil a feeling of committed patriotism and nationalism. However, the order had not specified any exemption for disabled people unable to stand up.


Clarifying the November 30 order, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy observed “if a physically challenged person or physically handicapped person goes to the cinema hall to watch a film, he need not stand up if he is incapable to stand. But he must show such conduct which is commensurate with respect for the national anthem.”

The Bench said that the term “physically-handicapped persons” would specifically mean those coming under Sections 2(i) and 2(t) of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

Section 2 (i) of the Act defines ‘disability’ as “blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, loco motor disability, mental retardation, mental illness.” Section 2 (t) defines a ‘person with disability’ as somebody suffering from not less than 40 per cent of any disability as certified by a medical authority.

Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the government would in the next 10 days frame guidelines on “how the physically challenged or physically handicapped persons shall show respect to the National Anthem.”

The court clarified that when it had ordered doors to be “closed” in cinema halls during the rendition of the anthem on November 30, it did not mean that the doors would be bolted.

The Bench referred to the Supreme Court’s own judgment in 2011 in the Uphaar fire tragedy in this aspect. The court had forbidden cinemas to lock their doors when patrons were inside the building.

The Bench said that it had wanted the doors to be closed “only to regulate the ingress and egress while the national anthem is played”.

Judge ‘jolted’ by plea

The clarification came on a plea by a film society participating in the 21st International Film Festival being held in Kerala.

However, the Bench took serious exception to the society’s plea that international delegates at the festival were facing difficulties standing up for the anthem. “I am jolted by this ground. The Supreme Court has to oblige foreign delegates by recalling our order? You have said they will have to stand five times when the national anthem is played. I would say why not rise 20 times?” Justice Roy asked.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 8:28:41 PM |

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