The Centre on Thursday informed the Delhi High Court that the formed committee is deliberating on recommendations for regulating the playing or singing of the National Anthem exclusively, not extending to the national song, ‘Vande Mataram’.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to grant equal status to the song ‘Vande Mataram’ as ‘Jana-Gana-Mana’ as the former has played a historic part in the freedom struggle.
The bench reviewed a 2018 Supreme Court judgement that referenced the constitution of an “InterMinisterial Committee” by the Centre in December 2017 specifically focused on the “playing/singing the National Anthem.”
The bench noted: “The petitioner appearing in person insists that the committee is also considering recommendations for regulating playing or singing of Vande Mataram. However, counsel for the respondent, Union of India, on instructions states that the committee is considering recommending regulating the playing or singing of the national anthem only and not Vande Mataram.”
Petitioner Upadhyay also requested more time to file an application for the impleadment of the Central Board of Secondary Education and (CBSE) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) as respondents in the petition.
He also sought to submit a rejoinder to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s reply.
Now, the PIL will be taken up next for hearing on February 5, 2024.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma had informed the court that the MHA has filed its reply, but it is pending from the petitioner’s end.
The ASG had told the court that in its reply, MHA had submitted that even though both anthem and the song have their sanctity and deserve equal respect, the subject matter of the present proceedings can never be a subject matter of a writ.
For not granting equal status to both, the MHA argued that causing disturbance to any assembly engaged in singing the National Anthem, and an absence of a parallel provision or an enactment for Vande Mataram is a punishable offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
Moreover, it contended that similar matters were earlier refused by the apex court and the Delhi HC.
It added: “Both ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and’ Vande Mataram’ stand on the same level and every citizen of the country should show equal respect to both. National song occupies a unique and special place in the emotions and psyche of the people of India.”
Upadhyay has also sought a declaration that the song shall have equal status with ‘Jana Gana Mana’ according to the statement made by the Constituent Assembly Chairman Dr. Rajendra Prasad with regard to the National Anthem, on January 24, 1950.
The plea read while quoting Dr. Prasad: “There is one matter which has been pending for discussion, namely the question of the National Anthem. At one time, it was thought that the matter might be brought up before the House and a decision taken by the House by way of a resolution. But it has been felt that, instead of taking a formal decision by means of resolution, it is better if I make a statement with regard to the national anthem.
“Accordingly, I make this statement. Composition consisting of the words and music known as ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is the ‘National Anthem of India’, subject to such alternations in the words, as the Government may authorise as occasions arises; and the song ‘Vande Mataram’, which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally with ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and shall have equal status with it. I hope this will satisfy the members.”
” ‘Vandemataram’ is the symbol of our history, sovereignty, unity, and pride. If any citizen by any overt or covert act shows disrespect to it, it would not only be an anti-social activity but it would also spell doom to all our rights and very existence as a citizen of a sovereign nation,” the PIL stated.
It further stated: “India is a Union of States and not association or confederation of States. There is only one nationality i.e. Indian and it is the duty of every Indian to respect the Vande Mataram. In order to keep the country united, it is the duty of the Government to frame a National Policy to promote-propagate ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and Vande Mataram. There is no reason why it should evoke any other sentiment as the both are decided by Constitution makers.”