Are we legally bound to stand during the national anthem?

04 October 2014
Ajay Aggarwal / Hindustan Times / Getty Images
Ajay Aggarwal / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

On 23 September, after more than a month’s incarceration, M Salman, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram, was granted bail by the Kerala High Court.

According to news reports, he was arrested on 20 August from his house after complaints about his and his friends’ behavior in a state-owned movie theatre. The group did not stand up when the national anthem was being played before a movie, the reports said, while Salman was also accused of “hooting” while it played. Salman was charged with sedition under Section 124A of the IPC, and was also charged under Section 66A of the IT Act, for allegedly posting derogatory comments about the national flag on Facebook.

The Indian Express quotes Harihara Sharma, who was part of Salman’s group in the theatre, as saying that other people in the theatre “got into an altercation” with them for not standing up during the anthem, even though the friends had previously been to the same theatre, and had not stood up at that time either.

According to the same report, Salman’s lawyer said that the district sessions court had declared that his “offence was more serious than murder” at his previous bail hearing, at which he was denied bail. To secure bail from the high court, Salman had to pay a surety of Rs 2 lakh and surrender his passport, and will now have to appear before the investigating officer twice a week.

The flurry of allegations and counter allegations raises a question: what exactly does the law say on the matter? Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act states:

Saurav Datta  works in the fields of criminal justice reforms and media law. He is associated with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and also teaches in Bombay and Pune. Opinions are personal.

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