The Big Picture – Supreme Court Order on National Anthem

  • March 17, 2017
  • 3
The Big Picture- RSTV
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Supreme Court Order on National Anthem


TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

In a new clarification by the SC on its national anthem order, it has said that the audience need not stand up when the national anthem is played as a part of the movie. It has also clarified that it is not compulsory to sing the national anthem while it is being played.

Arguments for the order

  • Respect for national identities is an obligation upon people. People should commit themselves to national interest, unity, integrity and security. Thus, it is responsibility of judiciary to defend and protect constitution if it is needed in its opinion.
  • It has been frequently said that DPSPs and FDs are not binding on government and people as well as are non-justiciable. Yet, many of their provisions today are a part of law or a separate law and are implemented. Even here, judiciary had an important role to play.
  • For example, there is no need of any external state intervention in routine but when people are not performing duties they are expected to, state can intervene. When it became a known fact that more and more senior citizens were being neglected, ill treated and thrown out of houses, a legislation (Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007) was passed which mandated taking care of senior citizens. Hence, this was not state’s rigidity to intervene but a part of moral and cultural values.

Arguments against the order

  • It is not in judiciary’s sphere to pass orders on issues such as playing of national anthem and rules related to it. Singing National anthem is a personal feeling and should not be dictated as part of judicial order.
  • Patriotism comes from within and cannot be forced. One has to respect symbols of own’s country and its institutions such as emblem, anthem etc. by themselves and not be forced upon.
  • Such orders give rise to vigilantes who are looking for issues to create nuisance in name of culture and nationalism. There may be people who may not be able to stand up. Instead of asking them reason or allowing them to behave as per their will, they are taken to task. Many instances of such kind have been reported.
  • Cinema is for entertainment and not to learn lessons. Had such an order passed for schools, it would have been acceptable as well as commendable as students are being imbibed with national spirit.

Some other dimensions

  • The issue of singing national anthem and showing patriotism should not go to court as how does one show love towards the country?
  • People can bring glory to the nation by working for its development, excelling in their field be it science, arts, music etc. It cannot be expressed by state dictating when to do what. That kind of patriotism is fascism, aggressive nationalism.
  • India’s nationalism is inclusive which has brought people together naturally and not through orders. Thus, nobody has the right to decide what is in national interest unless it is explicitly harming integrity, unity and security of nation.
  • Another issue is national anthem remains national anthem, wherever played. Hence, it has to be respected. There cannot be two sets of rules when national anthem is played at two different times. The basic issues is, judiciary cannot say when nationalism has to be shown.
  • FDs are to be enforced by the citizens of India. If the audience has non-citizens, will they be forced to stand up? These things bring unnecessary complications.


In every society, there are some non-negotiable which includes patriotism including respect for national anthem. But way to express are different. Playing national anthem at special occasions generate a feeling which is inexpressible but playing it at court’s order does no good. Freedom of speech also includes freedom of not to speak and no one can be compelled to speak.

As a nation, India has progressed a lot. The constitution is still growing and emerging as a tool for resolution of disputes and is working well. Hence, the elements which aim to destroy the nation through petty issues and petty aims should be dealt with firmly.

If nationalism is needed to be imbibed in the hearts of citizens of India, more focus should be given to spreading the nationalism visible during national mass movement for independence. Here, nationalism was even then when people with completely different point of view came and worked together for India’s independence. That is how nationalism is preached. In the best interest of freedom of speech and expression, the order needs to be reviewed.

This is an interim order. Final decision will be taken after taking into considerations and discussions in media and intelligentsia and opinion of common man.

Connecting the dots:

Critically analyse SC’s order on national anthem. In your opinion, is this a case of judicial interference or judicial overreach? Give reasons.

Related article:

A case of forced patriotism and judicial over-reach

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