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19 Apr 2017

SC anthem notice to Centre

TT, New Delhi, April 18: The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Centre on a PIL asking for the playing of national anthem Jana Gana Mana and national song Vande Mataram tobe made mandatory in all educational institutions, public offices, Parliament, state Assemblies and courts across the country.
The directive came on a plea filed by an advocate, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who claimed he was forced to approach the court as his representations to the Union home and law ministers on January 30 this year for framing a national policy to promote the national anthem and the national song had not evoked any response.
The bench, while issuing a notice to the Centre on the PIL, posted the matter for further hearing to August 23. But during a brief hearing on another PIL related to the playing of the national anthem in all cinema halls, the court wondered why Parliament had not enacted any law on the issue.
"Why has Parliament not made any law?" a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M. Shantanagowdar asked additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta. The bench made the observation after Mehta, representing the Centre, told the court that singing of the national anthem was "non-negotiable" and all "civilised nations" in the world respected their national anthem.
"I wonder why there is so much of objection from some people," Mehta said, but did not respond to the court's query on why Parliament has not enacted a law making it mandatory.
Senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for the Kerala Film Society, sought a recall of the apex court's November 30 order which had made it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before the screening of a feature film.
Singh contended that courts had no powers to pass such directives, and that Parliament alone could pass laws on these issues. He said there was a clear separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and the executive and, as such, courts should not interfere in matters that are in the domain of the legislature or executive.
The November order requires all theatres to play the national anthem before a feature film starts and everyone present to stand up to show respect. It was subsequently clarified that persons with certain physical disabilities need not stand up.
The order had come on a PIL filed by a social activist, Shyam Narayan Chouksey.
Today, the court further modified its earlier order and listed those who are exempt.
"We are inclined to modify the orders and direct that the persons who are wheel-chair users, those with autism, persons suffering from cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, Parkinson's (disease), multiple sclerosis, leprosy cured, muscular dystrophy and deaf and blind be treated not to be within the ambit of the orders passed by this court. As far as other categories, which we have not referred to mentioned in the application, are concerned, the same may be considered by the Union of India," Justice Misra, writing the order, said.
The modification followed an application by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) seeking exemptions for persons with disabilities.

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