Compulsory National Anthem verdict by SC: it started with Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham!

Sometime in early 2002, Mr. Shyam Narayan Chouksey, a retired engineer in Bhopal went to watch the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which starred big names like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, and Hrithik Roshan.

There is a scene in the movie where Shahrukh Khan’s son, at his school function in London, sings the National Anthem. As soon as the national anthem was sung by Sharukhs’ son (the character in the movie), Mr. Chouksey stood up in respect.

But he was shocked to see that no one else was joining him. In fact, people around him objected to him standing up as he was blocking their view and interrupting their movie watching experience. Some even mocked him. Chouksey was crestfallen at this “insult” meted out to the national anthem.

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Shocked and saddened that fellow Indians were not respecting the anthem, he went to the Manager of the theatre, Jyoti Theatre, and complained to him about the incident, but the manager couldn’t have punished the people. So he staged a ‘satyagrah’ outside the theatre to create awareness among people.

He put banners and posters and registered his protest, but people were still not willing to stand for the national anthem during the movie. So went to the local administration, state police, and finally to the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

And guess what. The High Court banned Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and ordered its producers – Yash Johar and Karan Johar – to delete the national anthem scene as people were unknowingly disrespecting the nation anthem due to not standing up during the movie. Court even asked producers to pay for Chouksey’s legal expenses.

The producers ran to the Supreme Court, which set aside the High Court’s order citing the rule that it was not mandatory for viewers to stand up for the national anthem if it was played as part of a film or documentary being screened.

This judgment didn’t impress Mr. Shyam Narayan Chouksey, who decided that he will keep fighting to make people aware of their duties and make them respect the national anthem. He filed a review petition claiming that the issue of national anthem being commercially exploited by film producers remained open.

Mr. Chouksey has been knocking at the doors of justice ever since. Not just movies, he went on to include in his petition, television shows, events, and other possible cases where there could be disrespect to the national anthem.

Last month, he could get the Supreme Court to issue notice to the union government regarding the same. In his Public Interest Litigation, he had sought the apex court to direct the government to take appropriate steps to stop disrespect and abuse of the national anthem.

And today, he could get the Supreme Court to declare that playing national anthem before every movie was mandatory and people will have to stand up in respect.

Not only that, the court agreed with him and declared that national anthem cannot be introduced or used as part of any entertainment program or variety show. So looks like if Karan Johar decides to remake Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, he will have to do away with that scene that started it all.

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