Twenty people have been arrested so far for failing to stand during the national anthem prior to public screening of films.
In an interim order the Supreme Court had on November 30 made compulsory that cinemas should play the national anthem, accompanied by an image of the national flag, before every screening, and that the audience should stand.
Twelve people were arrested on December 12 at an international film festival in Kerala for failing to observe the order, police said.
Likewise, eight were arrested in Chennai on December 11. Reportedly, they were assaulted by a group of 20 men during the interval for allegedly refusing to stand. They were reportedly charged under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and face up to three years in jail if found guilty.
The Supreme Court had not specified a penalty for failure to stand.
An organiser of an international film festival in Kerala had sought exemption from complying with the November 30 order of the top court, on the grounds that it would cause inconvenience to its 1,500 foreign guests.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy observed that the conditions imposed by its order on November 30 cannot be relaxed because some foreigners will be attending movie festivals or multiple movies would be screened. It, however, clarified that the disabled need not stand “but must show such conduct which is commensurate with respect” for the anthem.
“Only because certain foreigners are here and they may have some problems, should we recall our order? Why should we recall our orders only to oblige foreigners? If there are 40 movies running in different shows, you will have to, well, stand 40 times,” said the bench.