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Indian Polity

Protecting the Honour of National Anthem

  • 10 Jul 2023
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: Article 51 (A), History and evolution of national anthem, Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971

For Mains: Prevention of National Symbols, Honour of National Anthem and Supreme Court’s Judgements

Why in News?

Recently the Executive Magistrate in Srinagar sent 11 men to jail after detaining them for allegedly not rising for the National Anthem at an event where J&K Lt Governor was present.

  • The order noted that “there is every likelihood that they may commit breach of peace and disturb public tranquillity if released”.
  • They were “bound down” for good behaviour under sections 107/151 of CrPC.


  • In legal terms, to be “bound down” means to be required to appear before the investigating officer or the court on a given date.
  • The accused is bound by surety or personal guarantee to appear before the court.

Who is an Executive Magistrate?

  • The CrPC classifies magistrates into 2 types - Executive Magistrates and Judicial Magistrates. Section 3(4) of the CrPC enforces on good relations between the two.
  • An Executive Magistrate (EM) is an officer (or officers) of the Executive branch who has powers under both Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
  • The EMs are appointed by state governments, and they focus mainly on maintaining law & order and performing police and administrative functions.
    • On the other hand, Judicial Magistrates give verdicts pronouncing punishments/ penalty/ detention and go through the evidence in the process of investigation.
    • Also, the Judicial Magistrates are under direct control of High Courts.
  • EMs sometimes act as courts when they take up functions that are judicial in nature while conducting an inquiry (CrPC Sec.116) in connection with maintaining peace and order (CrPC Sec.107).

What are Section 107 and Section 151 of CrPC?

  • Section 107: When an EM receives information that any person has disturbed (or is likely to disturb) the peace or public tranquillity, s/he may ask such person to show cause why they should not be ordered to execute a bond for keeping the peace (maximum period one year).
    • Any EM can take such an action provided either one (if not both) falls in his/her jurisdiction:
      • The place where such breach of peace is likely to occur
      • The person who is likely to disturb the peace
  • Section 151: It provides for the arrest to prevent the commission of cognisable offences.
    • It authorises a police officer who comes to know of some persons planning to commit any such offences, to arrest them without a warrant or Magistrate orders.
    • However, they cannot be held in custody for more than 24 hours unless further orders (or any other law) provide so.

What is the National Anthem of India?

  • About:
  • Origin:
    • On December 27, 1911, Tagore performed the anthem for the first time in an INC session in Calcutta.
    • It was again performed in 1941 by Subhash Chandra Bose but he adopted a slightly different version from the original song, called ‘Shubh Sukh Chain’.
  • Evolution and Adoption:
    • Tagore wrote the first anthem in Bengali ‘Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata’ which later was edited and translated as ‘Jana Gana Mana’.
    • It was adopted as the national anthem on January 24, 1950, announced by the then President Dr Rajendra Prasad.

What are the Safeguards to Protect the Honour of the National Anthem?

  • Article 51 (A):
    • It is part of the Fundamental duties of the citizens of India.
    • Every Indian citizen has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution's values and institutions, as well as the National Flag and the National Anthem.
  • Prevention of Insults to National Honour (PINH) Act, 1971:
    • The Act stated that strict punishment will be meted out for disrespecting the national anthem and breaking its restrictions.
    • The accused shall be punished with imprisonment for up to 3 years or a fine or both.
  • National Anthem Code of Conduct:
    • It provides that whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention.
      • However, when 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.
    • It also lists the occasions where the short or full versions of the National Anthem will be played.

What are the SC’s Views Regarding Honour of the National Anthem?

  • Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors vs State of Kerala & Ors. (1986):
    • The law around alleged disrespect to the National Anthem was laid down by the Supreme Court (SC) in this case.
    • The SC granted protection to 3 children belonging a Christian sect, iterating that forcing them to sing the national anthem was violative of their fundamental right to freedom of religion (Article 25).
      • Their parents pleaded before Kerala HC that the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect of Christianity permitted worship of only Jehovah (Hebrew name for God). Since the anthem is a prayer, they could stand up in respect, but could not sing.
    • The SC held that standing up respectfully but not singing oneself neither prevents the singing of the National Anthem nor causes disturbance to people assembled to sing. Hence, it does not constitute an offence under PINH Act 1971.
  • Shyam Narayan Chouksey vs Union of India (2018):
    • While hearing the same case in 2016, the SC had passed an interim order mandating all the Indian cinema halls to play the National Anthem before the beginning of the film and all those present in the hall are obliged to stand up.
    • However, in its final judgement on the case in Jan 2018, the SC modified its order - “Playing of the National Anthem prior to the screening of feature films in cinema halls is not mandatory, but optional or directory”.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. With reference to Madanapalle of Andhra Pradesh, which one of the following statements is correct? (2021)

(a) Pingali Venkayya designed the tricolour Indian National Flag here.

(b) Pattabhi Sitaramaiah led the Quit India Movement of Andhra region from here.

(c) Rabindranath Tagore translated the National Anthem from Bengali to English here.

(d) Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott set up headquarters of Theosophical Society first here.

Ans: (c)

Source: IE

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