An interesting paradox stares as you watch the latest box office hit Dangal. In the dying moments of the biopic, the national anthem is played when a national champion is awarded a gold medal at a Commonwealth meet. In a theatre so full of patriots, one would have expected the house to stand up ‘in reverence’ to the national anthem. None did or most did not. This is in contrast to just an hour and a half ago, when the entire audience was up in attention saluting the tricolour and respecting the national anthem.
Where and how did the contradiction slip in? How come the nation stood up once and did not later? Did the patriotic fervour die in about one hundred minutes? Is our patriotic fervour so precarious? The entire audience and every film goer now across the country must stand up to show respect to the national anthem. In an interesting and patriotic order flowing from the majesty of the apex court, the nation has now been dictated to stand up as a mark of respect for the national anthem. The bench is dealing with a PIL filed by Shyam Narayan Chowksey, who had earlier initiated similar steps and sought a ban on the use of the national anthem in the film Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham. Now that the court has granted an interim direction for the nation to follow, we may well conceive this direction as an interim law of the country and follow it. The bench in its cryptic order observed: The emphasis is on showing requisite and necessary respect when the National Anthem is sung or played. The assertion is that it is the duty of every person to show respect when the National Anthem is played or recited or sung.
It is as an interim measure that the court passed in view of the above recorded contention. Taking cue, our patriotic police got involved in a singular reported incident in ‘God’s own country’ and beat up a person who did not respect the national anthem and/or the directions of the Supreme Court. Normally, the law of the land is that if someone violates a court order, the court has a process by which he is sentenced. In this case, the citizens of the enthusiastic and patriotism-bursting nation would brook no delay and ensured instant justice.
The order, albeit interim, has been welcomed by all right thinking people and this has also silenced the pseudo-intellectuals. This is indeed a bright spot in our nationalist (revivalist?) history!! At a time when the court is burdened with unprecedented docket bulge and the judges have so many serious issues to deal with, it is so refreshing that the apex court has not lost sight of our patriotic fervor and has taken this issue for adjudication. The bench also says, “the directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instill the feeling within one a sense committed patriotism and nationalism.
From Mundane to Philosophical
The bench declared “a time has come when citizen of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty-bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of constitutional patriotism and inherit national quality”. This is where the bench moves from the mere mundane to the amazingly philosophical!! Look how the judicial statesmen introduce innovatively the concept of “constitutional patriotism”. The bench declares that any other presumption is constitutionally impressible.
In his famous judgement dealing with the rights of school children to remain silent and not sing the national anthem, a jurisprudential giant Justice Chinnappa Reddy quoted his peer: “History teaches us that there have been but few infringement of personal liberty by the state which have not been justified, as they are here, in the name of righteousness and the public good, and few which have not been directed, as they are now, at politically helpless minorities”. Jehovah’s Witness, which had a decade ago challenged a school punishment for not singing the national song/national anthem, is up in arms and is likely to enhance the debate before the Supreme Court
Revert to the same treatise of Justice Jackson — “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception they do not now occur to us.” It may be that circumstances that the exception then did not occur to Justice Jackson but now has occurred to Justice Mishra and his brother. They choose not to spell it out. Lords, hard pressed for time. Now, we wait in attention for the reasons. As my patriotism stands tested in the dark precincts of a dark theatre, as I turn around for a certification from the unknown stranger, whose cinematic choice coincides with mine, freedom as we understand it or has evolved looks askance. Or, to state it differently: Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.
(The author is a Designated Senior Advocate)