A refreshing gust of liberal thinking appears to have swept across power centres in New Delhi. The apex court’s decision to re-visit its previous orders on criminalisation of homosexuality and, albeit with a welcome nudge from the Centre, to take another look at making it necessary for cinemagoers to stand when the National Anthem was mandated to be played before each show strikes a blow against authoritarian and regressive mindsets.
A pity that the “picture” is not complete ~ the government will soon be faced with tests on how to accord administrative sanctity and backing to the CBFC’s clearance of Padmavat. That a duly-elected chief minister should openly declare the rejection of a Centrally-appointed panel is a mini-crisis in terms of Constitutional propriety.
Can the NDA government afford, politically, to “sit this one out” ~ as it tends do when those on the fringes make a mockery of the rule of law? Since the judicial verdicts on the “cases” mentioned earlier are yet to be pronounced it would be premature to opine on the outcomes. Suffice it for the present to note with satisfaction and relief that their Lordships accept that they may have got it wrong in 2013 when the verdict of the Delhi High Court was overturned ~ to much public dismay it must be recalled.
When referring to a larger Bench the reconsideration of the validity of Section 377 of the IPC, a three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice struck a reassuring chord while observing that the sense of morality cannot be set in stone: adding that “the determination of the order of nature is not a common phenomenon. Individual autonomy, individual natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as unreasonable”.
It said the law has to keep pace with time, and a section of people cannot live in fear of a law that criminalises their sexual orientation. The political reaction was generally favourable; the LGBT community would feel vindicated; and most others should appreciate the move since it could signal more “modern” times ahead.
Decidedly more “political” is the issue of the National Anthem. What few choose to note is that the objection to being made to stand had been raised in the specific context of cinema halls where people went for entertainment. It was no general objection, and many visitors to the first meetings in sessions of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha wonder why they are told to remain seated when the anthem is played ~ the logic that visitors are not part of the House troubles them.
Hopefully this will be sorted out when the promised review of procedure is carried out. The bottom line is that patriotism cannot be enforced, and the self-styled nationalists need to be enlightened on that. And in any case, patriotism should be more than symbolic.