India's 70th Independence Day
An Indian security commando leaves the historic Red Fort in front of an Indian national flag after the full-dress rehearsal for India's Independence Day celebrations in Delhi, India Reuters

In less than 13 months after its earlier order on national anthem, the Supreme Court of India has overturned its earlier order that made playing national anthem in all cinema halls compulsory and required audience to stand during the time.

In its revision, the apex court on Tuesday said that playing the national anthem before screening movies in cinema theatres will no longer be mandatory. The supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, thus, reversed the earlier order of November 2016 when the apex court bench including Justice Misra had made it compulsory.

The new ruling follwed the stand taken by the Central government to set up an inter-ministerial committee to frame guidelines to decide the circumstances when the national anthem should be played or sung with decorum. The government made its plea to the court that the earlier order could be reviewed.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal requested the court to modify its 2016 order substituting "shall" with "may" for the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls.

The PIL was filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey who sought reversal of the court order. Now that the inter-ministerial committee was set up, the court disposed off the petition and asked Chouksey to approach the committee.

The 12-member inter-ministerial committee, headed by BR Sharma, a 1984 batch IAS officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, will meet on January 19 to discuss and decide the issue. The committee has drawn officers from 11 ministries and departments of the central government, to suggest changes on the existing laws. No states or their representatives have been roped in.

"It (panel) has to submit its recommendations in form of a report within six months," a senior ministry official told NDTV.

The committee will make recommendations to make playing and singing national anthem and related legislation relating to the Insult of National Honour Act 1971.

The Insult of National Honour Act 1971, under Section 3, states that "whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both."

However, the playing of the anthem in cinema halls was not part of the Act which has gradually made many cinema halls to drop playing the national anthem at the end of the screening of a film as audience often rushed to leave the hall than stand throughout the antham.

In November 2016, the Supreme court made it compulsory for playing the anthem in cinema halls before screening of the films and people were asked to stand during the period as per the norm. Now that the panel has been created, the court has revoked its earlier order.

(With inputs from IANS)