The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that the national anthem 'Jana Gana Mana' and the national song 'Vande Mataram' "stand on the same level" and that citizens should show equal respect to both.
“While unlike the national anthem there are no penal provisions or official instructions about singing or playing ‘Vande Mataram’, the song occupies a unique place in the emotions and psyche of Indians and all directions of the high courts and the Supreme Court concerning the song are being followed,” it said.
The submission was made by the Ministry of Home Affairs on an affidavit filed in response to a public interest litigation by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay to ensure that the song 'Vande Mataram' is as honoured and given equal status as the national anthem.
Emphasising that both the national song and the national anthem have their own sanctity and deserve equal respect, the Centre stated that the subject matter of the present proceedings can never be a subject matter of a writ petition.
"Both Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram stand on the same level and every citizen of the country should show equal respect to both. National song occupies a unique and special place in the emotions and psyche of the people of India," said the "short counter affidavit" filed through Central government lawyer Manish Mohan.
The court was informed that the issue of promoting 'Vande Mataram' was earlier dealt with by the top court which refused to "enter into any debate" as there was no reference to a national song in the Constitution.
Subsequently, the high court, the response added, dismissed another petition seeking guidelines for singing and playing 'Vande Mataram' while noting that there could be no dispute that the song deserves the regard and respect, which has been recognised by the authorities.
"The National Anthem and the National Song both have their sanctity and deserve equal respect. However, the subject matter of the present proceedings can never be a subject matter seeking a writ of the Hon'ble High Court more particularly in view of the settled position,” the response by Centre said.
The Centre stated that the present case was “not adversarial” and it would abide by “every direction that is deemed necessary and expedient” by the court.
“In 1971, the action of prevention of singing of the National Anthem or causing disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing was made a punishable offence by way of an Enactment of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
"However, similar penal provisions have not been made by the government in the case of National Song 'Vande Mataram' and no instructions have been issued laying down the circumstances in which it may be sung or played," the reply said.
The Central government is abiding by the directions passed by the High Courts as also the Supreme Court of India from time to time, it added. The reply further said that certain averments in the petition are in the nature of "individual suggestions which require deliberation at the administrative and judicial level before the same can be imbibed into the system, subject to the constitutional or the legal mandate".
The petitioner, who has also sought a direction from the Centre and the Delhi government to ensure that 'Jana Gana Mana' and 'Vande Mataram' are played and sung in all schools and educational institutions on every working day, has contended that in the absence of any guideline or regulations to honour the song, 'Vande Mataram' is being sung in an "uncivilised manner" and misused in films and parties.
The petitioner has stated that the song played a historic part in the Indian freedom struggle and ought to be honoured as much as 'Jana Gana Mana' in view of the statement made by the Constituent Assembly Chairman Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1950.
“To keep the country united, it is the government's duty to frame a national policy to promote-propagate 'Jana Gana Mana' and 'Vande Mataram'. There is no reason why it should evoke any other sentiment as both are decided by Constitution makers.
"The sentiments expressed in 'Jana Gana Mana' have been expressed keeping the State in view. However, sentiments expressed in 'Vande Mataram' denote the nation's character and style and deserve similar respect," the petition has said.
The petition has asserted that there should not be any dramatisation of 'Vande Mataram' and "it must not be included in any variety show because whenever it is sung or played, it is imperative on the part of everyone present to show due respect and honour".
"Direct and declare that the song 'Vande Mataram', which had played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally with 'Jana Gana Mana' and shall have equal status with it in the spirit of the statement made by the Constituent Assembly Chairman Hon'ble Dr. Rajendra Prasad with regard to the National Anthem, on 24.01.1950," the petition has urged.