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Make national anthem compulsory at cinema halls again: Petitioner writes to govt panel

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Top court referred the matter to a 10-member panel, which is seeking views of various ministries and studying laws of other countries.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court may have made it optional for cinema halls to play the national anthem ahead of a movie screening and left it to a government committee to take a final call, but the petitioner in the case — retired engineer Shyam Narayan Chouksey — is not giving up.

Chouksey has written to the high-level government committee pitching for mandatory playing of the national anthem in cinema halls, ThePrint has learnt. The committee has now circulated his full representation to all stakeholder ministries for their views on the same.

The 10-member committee has been closely studying laws of several countries related to their national anthems to check for precedents. It is also learnt that various ministries have been indicating to the committee that making the playing of the national anthem compulsory may not be the best way to inculcate a sense of patriotism among the people.

Speaking to ThePrint over phone from Bhopal, Chouksey, however, said he will strongly recommend that the national anthem be played across the country’s cinema halls at least for the next five years, in view of the prevailing situation.

Chouksey has argued that playing of the national anthem should be made compulsory in view of national interest. The move, he has said, is necessary to instill a greater sense of nationalism among the people.

“I have made a representation to the inter-ministerial committee and will also seek time for a personal hearing. I strongly disagree with the move to make it optional for cinema halls to play the national anthem,” Chouksey said.

“In fact, even after such a relaxation, no one is doing so. If the committee is insistent on relaxing things, I will urge them to at least ensure that it is kept mandatory for next five years,” he added.

The activist said that he will also be seeking minutes of the committee’s meetings through the Right to Information Act.

On a petition filed by Chouksey, the apex court had in November 2016 ordered that all the cinema halls in India would play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to it.

The petition was filed in the wake of the alleged insult to the national anthem in its rendition in Karan Johar’s blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Ram Gopal Verma’s Rann.

The SC order had attracted strong opinions against the move. In January this year, the court modified its order making it optional and leaving it to a 10-member inter-ministerial committee serviced by the home ministry to draw up clearer guidelines on the subject.

The committee has representatives from various stakeholder ministries on board. This committee has already held two meetings and recently sought the views of all stakeholders. Chouksey as the petitioner is the only person to have responded as on 29 March.

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