India has dropped a controversial policy of playing the national anthem in movie theatres

Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty ImagesAn Indian fan waves his flag as he awaits for the rain to stop during the Semi-Final ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 match between Australia and India at The 3aaa County Ground on July 20, 2017 in Derby, England.
  • India has reversed its policy requiring that the national anthem be played at theatres before a movie starts.
  • India established the rule in 2016.
  • Existing laws call for jail time for those who disrupt any performance of the anthem.
  • China and the Philippines have similar laws.

India has reversed its policy requiring that the national anthem be played at theatres before a movie starts.

The Supreme court ordered the termination of the policy on Tuesday in response to a request from government officials to reconsider the ruling, the BBC reported.

India had enacted the nationwide cinema policy in 2016, expanding on its national anthem laws which have existed since 1971.

The older laws, which are still in place, require a three-year jail term for those who “prevent the singing” or cause disturbances during the anthem. Additionally, the law also requires the Indian flag to be displayed and for all citizens to stand up in respect while the anthem is played.

The 2016 law was praised by the ruling Hindu nationalist party, according to BBC. But the law has seen challenges.

In October 2016, a disabled man was assaulted by other cinema attendees for not standing while the anthem played onscreen.

After the law was passed, police arrested seven people for taking selfies while the anthem played in a theatre in Chennai in December 2016.

The following day, 12 moviegoers were arrested for refusing to stand while the anthem played at an international film festival in the southern state of Kerala.

A cinema hall in the small town of Kodungallur created a petition in 2017 urging the recall of the controversial law, stating that the law “infringes fundamental rights”, and argued that theatres are “spaces that are singularly unsuited for the gravitas and sobriety that must accompany the playing of the national anthem.”

National anthem laws are common across Asia

India is not alone in its strong national anthem policies.

China’s National Anthem Law was signed into action in October 2017. The law dictates the Chinese anthem must be sung at political gatherings, major celebrations, and other suitable events, and offers a penalty of up 15 days to three years in prison for “distorting” the anthem.

In the Philippines, The 1998 Flag and Heraldic Code and its amendments explain, in detail, how to sing the country’s anthem, including the legally enforced lyrics, key, and level of enthusiasm necessary for renditions.

People who disobey the law could face a fine of up to $US2,000, or imprisonment of up to one year.

Experts say national anthem laws are strictly enforced in the region because the use of national symbols, like the national anthem, have more symbolic importance in Asian countries than more liberal democracies in the West.

Eric Chong, who contributed to the book “Reimagining Nation and Nationalism in Multicultural East Asia,” told Business Insider: “In Asia, countries tend to put emphasis on collective interests above any individual or sub-group interests, and [national] sovereignty is put at the extreme top.”

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