Are We Legally Required To Stand Up During The Indian National Anthem?

Is it illegal to sit during National Anthem? Is it a punishable offence? Or is it a personal choice?

Recently, a family was asked to leave a movie theatre because they refused to stand up for the national anthem. A lot of people have been expressing their opinion on why they should and shouldn’t have been asked to leave the theatre. To make the matter a bit clearer, let me break few things down for you.


Is it illegal?

Sitting during the National Anthem is not a legal offence.

Although, according to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971, anyone who intentionally prevents the singing of the Indian National Anthem or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

So, you cannot disturb the people who are willingly paying respect to the Anthem, but can choose to peacefully withdraw.


Then why have people been arrested for this reason in the past?


Nobody can be arrested for not standing up during the National Anthem. If done so, it is wrong and out of the law. People who have been arrested in past have been arrested for different reasons.

For example: 25-year-old M Salman was reportedly arrested for not standing up during National Anthem in Kerala. What you don’t know is that he was arrested under following charges and different reasons.

  • Section 124 A of the IPC: He was continuously whistling and hooting and intentionally causing disturbances to the people who were paying respect to National Anthem.
  • Section 66 A of the IT Act: He allegedly posted a derogatory comment about the national flag on Facebook.


Sensationalism by the media


The headline will read that ‘Student arrested for not standing up during National Anthem.’ But, no one will talk about the other punishable offences that were committed because of which the student was arrested. The sensationalism of news by sidelining the offence can be and has been very misleading.


Misinterpretation of the offence and law

Do you remember a very recent incident in which Mumbai Police arrested 40 couples from hotel rooms for public indecency? That was an example of an authority in power misusing and misinterpreting the law.

Similarly, if anyone gets arrested for choosing to not stand up during National Anthem, it will not be legal.

The Orders Relating To The National Anthem Of India states that ‘Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention.’ Although, there is now law against not doing it.

It also states that it depends on the good sense of the people not to indulge in indiscriminate singing.


There is a difference between ‘before the movie’ and ‘in the movie’.


According to Orders relating to the National Anthem on India

If in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand. That will interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.

For example: Do you remember the famous ‘Jana Gana Mana’ performance by Shah Rukh’s on-screen son in┬áKabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham? Since that was the part of the screening, you don’t have to stand up for that.

But in theatres, the anthem is played before the actual screening of the movie, so technically it is not ‘a part of the film’ as mentioned in the order above. So, the ‘audience shall stand to attention’ as per the same order.


It ultimately boils down to your etiquette

Image Source
Image Source

The gesture of standing up during your or anyone else’s National Anthem is out of sheer decency and respect for your country and people near you; not out of a legal obligation.

There’s no law that tells you how to behave at a funeral, but you still maintain your composure. Similarly, There is no ‘law’ which will tell you how to behave during a National Anthem. Your basic/social etiquette will tell you that.

Hope this clears some facts.
Until next time…

Cover image source