Read Judgement: Dr. Tawseef Ahmad Bhat versus State of Jammu & Kashmir & Anr.
New Delhi, July 12, 2021: The Jammu & Kashmir HC has ruled that mere disrespect to the Indian National Anthem is not an offence under Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971, unless the conduct of such person amounts to preventing the singing of the National Anthem or causing disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing.
The High Court was hearing the plea seeking quashing of an FIR registered in 2018 against a man earlier working as Lecturer on contractual basis in Government Degree College, Bani, in the Union Territory of J&K. The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint against him by some students who claimed that he had insulted the National Anthem during a function held in the college.
The petitioner said he lost his contractual appointment because of registration of aforesaid FIR.
After hearing arguments in the case, a Bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar opined that the contents of the FIR, which was based on a written complaint of the students of the College, do not constitute a cognizable offence and, therefore, registration of FIR and setting the investigating machinery in motion was not called for.
The Bench said the FIR clearly transpires that it does not attribute any act to the petitioner which may tantamount to preventing anybody from singing the Indian National Anthem or causing any disturbance to the assembly which was engaged in such singing.
“The observations made by SDM, Bani, that on enquiry he found that the petitioner had intentionally caused disturbance in the assembly engaged in signing National Anthem is clearly an afterthought and was not part of the complaint made before him by the students nor is such observation supported by any material particulars,” Justice Kumar said.
“Failure of the petitioner to participate in the assembly engaged in singing of Indian National Anthem, intentionally or otherwise, and roaming about in the school premises where the assembly was engaged in singing Indian National Anthem, in my opinion, would not amount to either preventing the singing of Indian National Anthem or causing any disturbance to the assembly engaged in such singing,” he said in the judgement.
The High Court also found that the conduct of the petitioner, if intentional, may amount to showing disrespect to the National Anthem and a breach of fundamental duty enjoined on citizens of the Country by Article 51A of the Constitution. “The petitioner by losing his contractual job has already paid the price”, the Bench said.
Section 3 of the Indian Honour Act, as it stands as on date, does not make “disrespect” to the Indian National Anthem an offence unless it has the effect of preventing the signing of National Anthem or disturbing the assembly engaged in such signing. The conduct must amount to either preventing the signing of the National Anthem or causing disturbance in the assembly engaged in such singing so as to bring it within the purview of Section 3 of the Act.
Interestingly and indisputably, mere disrespect to Indian National Anthem is not an offence per se.
The Court clarified that not standing up while the Indian National Anthem is being sung, or standing up but not singing the National Anthem along with members of the assembly engaged in such singing, may amount to disrespect to the National Anthem and a failure to adhere to fundamental duties enumerated in Part IVA of the Constitution of India but is not an offence as defined under section 3 of the Act.