Committee Contemplates National Anthem Regulations, Not Vande Mataram: Centre tells Delhi HC in PIL for equal status for both

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The PIL plea seeks direction to grant equal status to Vande Mataram in spirit of the statement made by the Constituent Assembly Chairman Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 24th January 1950

The Centre apprised the Delhi High Court on Thursday that the committee it has formed is currently deliberating on recommendations for regulating the playing or singing of the National Anthem exclusively, not extending to the national song, ‘Vande Mataram’.

The disclosure came during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, wherein he has sought equal status for Vande Mataram alongside the National Anthem, advocating for its mandatory rendition in all educational institutions on working days.

Earlier in the day, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna reviewed a 2018 Supreme Court judgment that referenced the constitution of an "Inter-Ministerial Committee" by the Centre in December 2017 specifically focused on the "playing/singing of 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."

In a subsequent session later in the day, Upadhyay requested additional time to file an application for the impleadment of the CBSE and ICSE as respondents in the petition. He also sought to submit a rejoinder to the Centre's reply.

The court granted the requested time, and the plea is now scheduled for the next hearing on February 5, 2024.

It may be noted that the MHA in its reply had submitted that the National Anthem and the National Song both have their sanctity and deserve equal respect, however, the subject matter of the present proceedings can never be a subject matter of a writ.

Citing the punishable offence (Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971) for causing disturbance to any assembly engaged in singing the National Anthem, and an absence of a parallel provision or an enactment for Vande Mataram, the Ministry of Home Affairs defended its stance for not granting equal status to both.

MHA in its reply further apprised the court that similar matters were refused previously by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court. 

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, Centre in its reply added. 

The PIL filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has further sought a declaration that the song should have equal status with 'Jana Gana Mana' in the spirit of the statement made by the Constituent Assembly Chairman Dr. Rajendra Prasad with regard to the National Anthem, on January 24, 1950.

The plea quoted that Dr. Prasad on January 24, 1950, had said,

"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 authorize 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.”

The petition stated, "‘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."

It further read, "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 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."

Cause Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay Vs. Union of India & Ors.