Supreme Court on Jana, Gana, Mana

“As an important limb of the democratic system, the Supreme Court should steer clear of activism in areas beyond its purview by ruling on Wednesday that cinema halls shall play the national anthem before a film starts. This has added a new dimension with certain legal luminaries suggesting that the bench should review its order at the next hearing fixed for February 14, 2017. It is churlish for any institution to assume that by standing up during the national anthem in a cinema hall is the ultimate test of patriotism. This is taking things too far as opinions differ in the ongoing debate on nationalism. In other words having a contrary view to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden demonetisation to fight the menace of black money, counterfeit currency and terrorism does not necessarily make one an anti-nationalist. It is advisable for the courts to avoid non-judicial issues evidenced with the so called movie hall nationalism. The universal principles of democracy find no reflection in the court’s order on the national anthem. The job of the judiciary including the Supreme Court is to interpret laws. Making laws is the prerogative of the legislature. Clear separation of powers is the key to a democratic system of governance. There is no ambiguity in the message of the founding fathers of the Constitution. Respect to the nation and its symbols would not be enforced by state diktat or extracted through legal compulsion. It may not be out of place to recall some of the observations of the Supreme Court in this case. It is compulsory for all citizens to now stand up and listen to the national anthem before they watch a movie in a theatre. “”When the national anthem is played or sung in a cinema hall, its doors must remain locked so that no one can create any kind of disturbance that will amount to disrespect to the Anthem,”” Justices Dipak Mishra and Amitava Roy said in an interim order. The court gave the directions on a PIL filed by a retired army officer Shyam Narayan Chowskey. The petititon sought appropriate directions to the authorities to ensure that due respect is given to the national anthem and that it is played before the start of feature films in cinemas.Justice Mishra is in line to be the Chief Justice of India after Justice J S Kehar, who is expected to take over from Chief Justice of India T S Thakur in the new year in January. The Supreme Court took note of Article 51 (A) of the Constitution which makes respecting the National Anthem a fundamental duty of every citizen, emphasising “”it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals enshrined in the Constitution. One such ideal is showing respect for the National Anthem and the national flag.”” An enforced or coercive nationalism will inevitably be shallow. Patriotism is a value that most people cherish. Why is it necessary to display one’s patriotism frequently. Is it to bring round the dissenter. Given the country’s National Anthem bringing to the fore its unity in diversity, why has it become necessary for the judiciary to make the playing or the singing of the anthem mandatory through its order. Have cinema halls been chosen because they were required to play the National Anthem and given up some 30 years back. What is odd is that the directive has come from the Supreme Court and not the government. Under the circumstances questions have been raised why is the judiciary trying to overreach itself.This comes at a time when the Supreme Court is exercised over the shortage of judges in the higher judiciary and blames the Executive for stonewalling in this regard. The apex court has said that its order must be enforced in ten days in cinema halls all over the country. Lets wait and see if that is practical or will the court change its order in the middle of February next year. (T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)”

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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