Insulting National Anthem – Court orders summons to Shashi Tharoor

via published on March 24, 2009

KOCHI: Finding that “there is sufficient grounds to proceed with the complaint” that Shashi Tharoor showed disrespect to the National Anthem at a function held at Ernakulam on December 16, 2008 the Ernakulam Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate on Monday ordered to issue process by way of summons for his appearance before the court at 11 am on April 18.

To solve the question as to whether a charge could be framed against Tharoor under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, for the alleged act, his presence is necessarily required, said ACJM Cherian K Kuriakose. The allegation levelled against Tharoor is that he interrupted the singing of the National Anthem at the end of the function organised by the Fedbank Hormis Memorial Foundation in which he had delivered the K P Hormis Memorial Lecture.It is alleged that while the singing was in progress, Tharoor picked up the microphone and directed the elite audience to stand up the way the US people do while singing their national anthem, with right palm placed on the chest, instead of standing to attention in tune with the official instructions followed in India.

Some members of the audience followed his instruction when the singing resumed, but not all.The Magistrate had taken cognizance on the offence and conducted an inquiry by examining the complainant and two witnesses.

The complaint argued that the action of the accused was an expression of insensitivity and inconsiderateness to the age-old tradition followed in the country in obedience to the official code of conduct prescribed for the rendition of the National Anthem.

Any new suggestion could have been given by the accused either prior to the singing or after. Or, he could have placed it at the appropriate forum for modification of the standing official instructions.

Respect is an expression of attitude of mind. Hence, the prime question would be whether the alleged action of the accused could be viewed prima facie as an expression of disrespectful mental attitude, the ACJM said.

As per the official instructions, when the National Anthem is sung or played the audience shall stand to attention. Therefore, the alleged direction given by the accused to the dignified audience is literally and prima facie in defiance to the above imperative official instructions imparted to the nation which should be taken as a grossly inappropriate gesture on the part of the accused. Sworn statement by the complainant Joy Kaitharath and two witnesses would prima facie give the indication that the argument of the complainant’s counsel carry weight.

It was also alleged that the interruption of the singing of the anthem ipso facto would render the accused liable to penal action under Section of the Act under which intentionally preventing the singing of the National Anthem and causing disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing is punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine.

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