The national anthem must be played before any movie is screened at a public theatre, the Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday, setting a 10-day deadline for cinema and multiplexes across India to carry out the directive.
The court banned any “dramatisation” or commercial exploitation of the Jana Gana Mana and said the Tricolour must be displayed on the movie screen when the anthem is played.
“Respect must be shown as the national anthem is symbol of patriotism. People shouldn’t follow paths of individually perceived notion of freedom,” justice Dipak Misra said as he read out the judgment.
The decision is likely to re-ignite a debate over a resurgent wave of nationalist activism that has seen fights break out over cricket matches and film stars.
The court also outlawed any abridged version of the 52-second song and said it shouldn’t be printed on any “undesirable object”.
The order will likely embolden Hindu groups that have been pushing a strident brand of nationalism, which many have opposed as just a means to curb dissent.
The national anthem is already played before movies in some states – such as Maharashtra – but the measure is often controversial, with instances of people beaten up for not standing up for the anthem.
“You don’t mind restrictions when you are abroad. But when you are here, you don’t want restrictions,” Misra said. “Directions are to be issued for love of the motherland.”
The court said every citizen is “duty-bound” to abide by the ideals in the Constitution – one of it is to “show respect to the national anthem”.
“These days, people read things that have nothing to do with nationalism but don’t study material related to nationalism.”
The song was penned by India’s first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1911 and the first of five stanzas adopted as the country’s national anthem in 1950.