HE Jammu and Kashmir High Court Friday quashed an FIR against a former lecturer in a government college accused of showing disrespect to the national anthem by not singing it during the celebration of a “surgical strike” conducted by the Indian Army against Pakistan.
Mere disrespect to the national anthem is not an offence per se, Justice Sanjeev Kumar said, while pointing out that only two types of conduct exhibited by a person or persons towards the national anthem invited penalties of imprisonment and/or fine under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971, i.e. conduct that prevented the singing of the national anthem or caused a disturbance in the assembly engaged in such singing.
“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 but is not an offence as defined under Section 3 of the Act”, the judge held.
Referring to the FIR, the court pointed out that the written complaint of the students did not attribute any action to the petitioner which would be tantamount to preventing anybody from singing the Indian national anthem or causing any disturbance to the assembly which was engaged in such singing.
“Failure of the petitioner to participate in the assembly engaged in the singing of the 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”, the judge said.
The conduct of the petitioner, if intentional, the judge added, may amount to showing disrespect to the national anthem and a breach of the fundamental duty enjoined on citizens of the country by Article 51A of the Constitution. The petitioner by losing his contractual job had already paid the price.
The petitioner, Dr Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, was working as a lecturer at the Government Degree College, Bani, on a contractual basis. He lost his job after the registration of the FIR against him in 2018. Bhat claimed that he too joined the students and attended the function and was standing with the staff when the national anthem was being sung. He alleged that on the instigation of one Pawan Sharma, a computer clerk, the students demonstrated against him and complained to the SDM, who ordered the registration of the FIR.