Justice Dipak Misra, your interim order on 30 November to create a legal framework for our national anthem etiquette has made it to national, nay, international headlines. It is difficult to surmise what your final order will be, but given the history of your judicial pronouncements it is reasonable to conclude that your final order will be in conformity with your interim one.
After all, as a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, you had banned the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham unless the scene depicting the national anthem was removed from the film. You had agreed with the petitioner then that viewers not standing up when the national anthem was being sung in the film amounted to a lack of show of patriotism and that this must not be allowed to happen. The director Karan Johar had then moved the Supreme Court. Justice Khare of the Supreme Court had dismissed your order and had said that stretching patriotism to such lengths was not in keeping with the Constitution.
Why should someone who has gone to watch a Sunny Leone film be forced to demonstrate his patriotic credentials? Why not those in the major institutions of the government?
But, clearly, you have not learnt any lessons from that case. Incidentally, it is the same petitioner from Madhya Pradesh who had got a favourable decree from you back then who has moved the Supreme Court. And it is perhaps more than a coincidence that the same petitioner's similar case is being heard by a bench headed by you.
The question arises, Justice Mishra, why did you hurriedly issue an interim order? Interim orders are mostly prayed for—and granted—when delay in dispensation of justice would amount to denial of justice for an individual or an institution. There are millions of cases in several courts— there must be hundreds of cases in your bench—which are crying out for immediate attention as petitioners need to be judicially rescued from the jaws of the wolves—wolves of various kinds, government or otherwise.
You said in your order that you agreed to issue an interim order as the Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, agreed to it. If you value his judgement so much, then the same AG had depicted Supreme Court judges as corrupt, lazy and incompetent, while arguing the NJAC case which was heard by you, along with other judges. Why didn't you show equal respect Rohatgi's views then?
Why this show of respect in the current case for the enumeration of the etiquette for the national anthem which is a larger executive issue, not a justiciable issue? In the 1970s and 80s, it was a mandatory requirement for cinema halls to play the national song at the end of each film. Some people stood to attention; others just filed past them to the exit door. The government felt that it was virtually impossible to discipline a crowd in the cinema hall at the end of a movie. The prevailing chaotic scene was an insult to the national anthem itself. So the practice was discontinued.
You want to revive the old practice. The only change that you want to bring in is that the national anthem will now be played at the beginning of the movie, not at the end. And you have instructed that during the period the national anthem is played, the entry and exit doors of cinema halls must remain shut. But Justice Misra, you have not spelled out who will enforce this? Who will make cinema-goers stand to attention and sing the national anthem? What happens to those who refuse to stand up or who are unable to stand up?
Why did you refuse to pass an order on 2 December, when a lawyer suggested that all the courts across the country must follow this practice?
When the national anthem was played in cinema halls in 1970s and 1980s, it was a government advisory. So it was left to the patriotic sense of the individual to show respect to the national anthem. Now that you want to enforce it as a court order, it would have a basis for legal enforcement. Who will then enforce it—cinema hall ushers? Or will you ask the police to be deployed inside each theatre hall to keep vigil and arrest those who do not stand up during the playing of the national anthem? Or perhaps you want to leave it to the "patriotic" goons present in the cinema hall to discipline the "anti-national rogues"? Will that be your brand of dispensation of justice?
Justice Misra, why is this obsession with cinemagoers to exhibit patriotism? Why should someone who has gone to watch a late night Sunny Leone film for voyeuristic pleasure be forced to demonstrate his patriotic credentials? Why can't this kind of patriotism be on display in the major institutions of the government that speak for the nation? Why can't you, for example, begin your daily court proceedings with the singing of the national anthem, when you and your fellow judges, lawyers, plaintiffs stand up and demonstrate patriotism on a daily basis? Why did you refuse to pass such an order on 2 December when a lawyer suggested that all the court proceedings across the country must follow this practice?
You can ask every government office to begin its daily work with the national anthem. This way the executive branch of the government will imbibe the virtues of patriotism...
Why not ask all legislatures, state and national, to start their daily session with the singing of the national anthem? Parliament has a practice of recitation of the national anthem on the first and last day of the session. But if cinemagoers will have to demonstrate their patriotism on a daily basis, why not our MPs and MLAs who shape the destiny of our nation?
If you want to extend your fiat to the absurd limit, then you can ask every government office in the country to begin its daily work with the recitation of the national anthem. This way the executive branch of the government will imbibe the virtues of patriotism on a day-to-day basis.
Justice Mishra, if you succeed in inculcating the patriotic spirit in our executive, legislature and judiciary, you would do a great service to India, our Motherland! Then Narendra Modi will be pushed to the sidelines. You might even go down in history as the deliverer of a patriotic India!
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