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Centre faces anthem music

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench has said if people do not stand up when the national anthem is being played, they cannot be branded "anti-national" and dared the Centre to change the law to make such a gesture mandatory.

The Chief Justice of India indicated that an interim order by the top court might be modified, replacing the word "shall" with "may", which would make standing up voluntary.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, part of the bench and scheduled to be Chief Justice in November 2022, said: "How far can we go? Next thing will be that people should not wear T-shirts and shorts to movies because it will amount to disrespect to the national anthem; where do we stop this moral policing? You don't have to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic."

Justice Chandrachud was addressing attorney-general K.K. Venugopal while hearing a petition challenging the earlier Supreme Court order that made standing up mandatory.

"People go to the cinema halls for undiluted entertainment. Why should we direct them on this? You amend the rule. You don't need to play the national anthem to be a patriot. Should one be called an anti-national, if one doesn't stand during the national anthem?" Justice Chandrachud asked.

The other judges of the bench are Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

The bench granted the Centre two months to take a decision "without being influenced" by the interim order.

An earlier bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had passed the order in November last year on a PIL filed by a Bhopal-based citizen, Shyam Narayan Chouskey, who wanted to make it mandatory for cinemas to play the national anthem and viewers to stand up.

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