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SC notice to govt on plea seeking framing of policy for Vande Mataram, national anthem
(New Delhi, Apr 18,2017): The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the central government in a plea seeking framing of a policy for promoting the national anthem, national song and the national flag.

A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M. Shantanagowdar sought the government’s response within four weeks.

The case was filed by the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, asking the government to make singing Vande Mataram, the national song, mandatory in schools, Parliament, state assemblies, public offices and courts.

Justice Misra, in a hearing in February, had, however, said that the discussion on the national song will be restricted as the Constitution does not mandate it. “Constitutionally, it is the fundamental duty of a citizen to respect the national flag, emblem and anthem and not the song,” he had said.

The court, on an earlier occasion, tagged the case with another public interest litigation filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey that had sought mandatory playing of the national anthem in cinema halls before every screening and for everyone in the audience to show respect by standing up.

The apex court in November last year issued a slew of directions on when and how the national anthem must be played.

On Tuesday, the court also allowed Chouksey to amend his plea seeking criminal prosecution of those who disrespect the national anthem. He argued that while there is a law to prevent disrespect and insult to the national flag, there is no such legislation concerning the national anthem.

“It is unfortunate that a petition had to be filed in this court for such a prayer and it’s more unfortunate that some people were opposing such a plea,” the government’s law officer, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, said.

“National anthem is our national pride and singing it (national song) is nonnegotiable,” Mehta added.

Two BJPruled states—Rajasthan and Maharashtra—also sought to intervene in the case. Maharashtra is also one of the two states to have adopted such a rule over a decade ago.

“Since the government is unable to decide on the issue, court is encroaching into the functioning of the legislature. This is a settled issue and there should be no reason to bring it up again,” said Subrata Mukherjee, a NewDelhi based political analyst and former political science professor at Delhi University.

The case will be heard next on 23 August.

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