It is difficult not to recall the old saying about good intentions paving “the road to Hell” in the context of the apex court directing mandatory playing of the National Anthem and screening a fluttering Tricolour ahead of every “show” at a cinema.
Those who remember how quickly the sheen wore off similar action after the Chinese aggression in 1962, and the unflattering conduct of the public will have their reservations over the court order.
And their Lordships “additional” order that the theatre doors remain shut during the Anthem will only mean that people turn up late (as they did when showing a Films Division documentary was compulsory fare), and may actually infringe the court-ordered safety regime imposed after the Uphaar fire tragedy in the Capital.
That eminent jurists, of as divided “philosophy” as Soli Sorabjee, KK Venugopal and Ravjeev Dhawan, should have expressed their reservations and spoken of judicial overreach, or worse, ought to be a sobering thought for their Lordships Dipak Mishra and Amitava Roy who have initiated a debate on patriotism through their detailed order on what is required of a citizen. A statement better made froma nother platform.
Adding a political “spin” to judicial action is not desirable, yet there can be no ignoring the immediate endorsement of the court order by the ruling BJP which seeks to slam all those who do not subscribe to its ideology (even on the demonetisation controversy and military bellicosity) as being anti-national, seditious, etc.
At the risk of rocking the boat we are constrained to point out that the man-in-the-street is not to be faulted for suspecting a “saffron influence” at play in the apex court directive.
The debate is not confined to the regular playing of the National Anthem (not the practice in either Parliament or the courts) but calls into question their Lordships bid to instil a sense of patriotism and love for the country into citizens. Can such sentiments be coerced? Both flow from the stake a person develops in a relationship: which underscores why as women get more emancipated they challenge male dominance in society. So too, the citizen develops faith and confidence in the “system” when he or she is assured of a fair deal, is treated with respect at police stations, post offices, banks, passport and licensing offices, etc.
Or, when disabused of the apprehension that only the well-heeled get “justice”; or that he/she is cynically exploited by the collective political leadership. Will having to stand when the National Anthem is played at a cinema hall suffice to inspire — as opposed to inject — sentiments as noble as patriotism and a love for the nation? The jury, their Lordships must have the moral to note, is “out” on that one.