Delhi HC adjourns hearing of plea seeking equal status for National Anthem, Song

The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned hearing on a plea seeking direction to grant equal status to National Song “Vande Mataram” as National Anthem “Jana Gana Mana” as it has played a historic part in the freedom struggle.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad listed the hearing of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on April 28, 2023, as Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has filed its reply, but it is pending from the petitioner’s end.

The ASG told the court that in its reply, the 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 is a punishable offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, but there is an absence of a parallel provision or an enactment for “Vande Mataram”.

Moreover, it contended that similar matters were earlier refused by the apex court and the Delhi HC.

“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.”

The petitioner, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, has also sought a declaration that the National Song shall have equal status with the National Anthem, 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 cited Prasad as saying: “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.”

Upadhyay’s plea said: “‘Vande Mataram’ 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.”

“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 ‘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.”

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