New Delhi: The list of people exempt from standing when the national anthem plays in a cinema hall has been fine-tuned and those falling in 10 categories approved by the Supreme Court are set to get relief, government sources said on Wednesday.
People with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, day blindness, hearing loss, autism, locomotive disability (wheelchair-bound), multiple sclerosis, as well as leprosy-cured persons and those with intellectual disability (learning disorder) will be allowed to stay seated.
Sources say the top court has also directed the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment to prepare a final report on whether any other disabled category can be included in the list. On November 30, the SC ordered that cinema halls across the nation play the anthem before every movie screening and the audience rise out of respect.
The ruling provoked arguments between those who view it as an infringement of individual rights and others sympathetic to a surging tide of nationalism in the world’s second-most populous country. ‘The ministry of home affairs is now going to issue a circular exempting these 10 disabled categories from the purview of earlier submissions,’ said a government official.
‘There is an order from the Supreme Court to find out if any other category can be included. Accordingly, the ministry of home affairs in consultation with the ministry of social justice and empowerment is preparing a revised circular for the purpose.’ Playing Jana Gana Mana in movie theatres was common in the 1960s, but the practise fell out of favour as fewer and fewer people paid attention. The ministry of social justice and empowerment is going to submit its final view to the MHA by Friday, said sources.
‘While these 10 disabled categories are finalised for exemption, the MHA will inform the high court and Supreme Court before issuing the final circular, which is likely to done by next week,’ said an official. The SC ordered last year that every person must stand when the national anthem is played in a movie theatre. ‘The people should stop following individual notions of freedom and have a sense of committed patriotism,’ the judges said.
Following this, there were reported instances of people in cinema halls being assaulted and arrested for not standing during the anthem. The court later passed an order excluding people with certain disabilities. ‘It is a good clarification and differently-abled people do not have to undergo unnecessary sort of inconvenience and possible harassment,’ said activist Javed Abidi. ‘We are satisfied and happy too as the Supreme Court issued these orders after a lot of clarifications and considerations with the ministry of social justice and empowerment,’ he added.
Sources say the Centre has two weeks to revert. The next date of hearing is on August 23.
The home ministry had issued guidelines in January regarding conduct while the national anthem is played at movie theatres, which had left many differently abled people ill at ease.
Dr Ish Anand, head of neurology at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, ‘Most of the people suffering from cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease or any other brain disorder need wheelchairs and support for movement.’
‘If we are talking about standing for the national anthem in movie theaters or any other public places, then these patients are not able to stand or sit immediately,’ he added.
‘They take longer than others to adjust themselves in a standing posture and similarly they take a while to sit comfortably. I think it is a good order by the Supreme Court to exclude differently-abled people to avoid inconveniencing them,’ he further said.