India national anthem no longer compulsory in cinemas

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Indian children sing national anthemImage source, AFP
Image caption,
It is compulsory to stand to attention when the anthem is played

India's Supreme Court has reversed its previous order that the national anthem must be played in every cinema before a film is screened.

The court order came on Tuesday in response to a government request to reconsider the controversial ruling.

It fuelled opposition and even led to arrests of those who refused to stand.

The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's stance has surprised many as it had called the 2016 order a "fantastic move" at the time.

The film club had argued that forcing cinemas to play the national anthem and insisting that people stood while it was being played "infringes fundamental rights", and talked about the false equivalence between an "outward show of respect" and an "actual sentiment of respect".

During its hearing of the petition, the court asked the government in October to decide whether standing for the national anthem in cinemas was mandatory.

In its response on Monday, the government said it had formed a panel to decide on the issue and asked the court to reverse its ruling until a decision was made.

Both the court ruling and the government stand are making waves on social media. Many are criticising the BJP for reversing its previous stance.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, cinemas regularly played the anthem but the practice gradually declined.

Prior to the 2016 Supreme Court ruling, there was no uniform law in India regarding the anthem and the 29 states had their own laws on the issue.

The ruling sparked concern that people could be targeted for not "respecting" the national anthem: