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National Anthem: SC order on ‘closed doors’ sacrifices public safety for pop patriotism

In a bid to “instil committed patriotism and nationalism”, the Supreme Court appears to have overlooked the greater perils of its verdict on National Anthem. In its 30 November order, the Supreme Court ruled, “All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.”

While most lines of argument which criticises the Supreme Court order have concentrated around notions of patriotism, free will, freedom of speech and expression, the mandatory bolting of doors has raised a pertinent issue — that of public safety. Part of the Supreme Court’s order states:

“Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened.”

According to experts, not only should this directive be “recalled”, it also needs further clarification. Reiterating the same sentiment, Alok Prasanna Kumar, a Bengaluru-based advocate and a senior resident fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, said that if one goes by the Supreme Court’s directive, there is a huge disaster, like the Uphaar fire tragedy of 1997, waiting to happen. “I think by ‘disturbance’, the Supreme Court meant walking in and out of the theatre. But there are two things that need to be kept in mind: Firstly, this order is fraught with potential danger and harm to the public and secondly, the Supreme Court is violating its own earlier order in the Uphaar case where it had ordered that doors should never be bolted,” Alok told Firstpost.

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Supreme Court’s directive on doors being shut raises the question: Is safety getting sacrificed at the altar of pop-patriotism?

While issuing safety guidelines in the aftermath of the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court had stated that “under no circumstances, the entry door (which can act as an emergency exit in the event of fire or other emergency) should be bolted from outside”. The bench had noted that one of the doors in Uphaar cinema was bolted from outside and it prevented scores of victims from escaping the blaze.

The factors which constituted the direct and proximate cause of death of 59 persons and injury of 100 persons in Uphaar cinema were the installation of the DVB transformer in violation of law, faulty repair of the DVB transformer, presence of combustible material in the cinema building, parking of cars near the transformer room, alterations in the balcony obstructing egress, structural deviations resulting in closure of escape routes in the building at the time of the incident, bolting of the exit doors from outside and the absence of fire fighting measures and two trained firemen…”

The “close-door” order also clashes with the fire safety guidelines given to the fire department. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official from the Mumbai Fire Department told Firstpost that doors in cinema theatres cannot be bolted and that flouts fire safety norms. “I have not read the Supreme Court order, but doors in a cinema hall cannot be locked. Shutting of doors is against the rule and every theatre in Mumbai abides by it.” When told that the Supreme Court says that the doors should be locked and what that means for the safety of the public, the official bypassed the question and said, “Why should anyone move when the National Anthem is playing? You are supposed to stand in attention till the Rashtra Gaan is over.”

The Supreme Court not only violated its own earlier order, it also contradicts the Delhi Cinematography Act, which requires at least two exits to be open in the hall at all times. Rule 10 of Delhi Cinematograph Rules lays down that every auditorium must have two or more different thoroughfares or open spaces from which there is at all times free means of rapid dispersal. This rule also says that all doors through which the public have to pass on the way to open air shall be available for exit during the whole time that the public are in the building and during such time shall not be locked or bolted.

According to Alok, the Supreme Court ruling can be altered by submitting an “application of modification or recall of the order.” “Modification of this order is one way to ensure public safety otheriwse the tiniest spark or smoke can lead to mass panic and eventual casualties,” Alok said. Unfortunately, laws of physics cannot be suspended by a judicial order and if a fire breaks out, patriotism will not save scores from a horrible death in a closed space, Alok added.

Firstpost tried to reach multiplex and single-screen theatre owners to understand how will they ensure public safety with closed doors, but no one was available for a comment.

“There was no party present in the court to give the full picture to the Supreme Court. The fact that its current order violates its earlier one and which ends up exposing the safety issue of the public never entered anyone’s mind,” Alok further added.

The fact that the Supreme Court mandates upkeep of nationalist pride at the cost of public safety is something worth mulling. Aside from the totalitarian nature of the rule, a cinema hall is no place for the National Anthem to be played. In several citations, one such being the Ministry of Home Affairs in its “Orders related to the National Anthem”, it has been mandated that in order not to dilute the dignity of National Anthem, it should be played only on certain occasions.

“However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.”

That sentence says more than all the tweets, Facebook posts and article comments in the world combined ever could.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 15:20 IST

Left accuses Modi govt of not ‘keeping promises’, ‘failing completely’ on economic front

Seeking to pooh-pooh Modi government’s performance in two years, Left parties Thursday accused it of “not keeping” its poll promises, “failing completely” on the economic front and pursuing “communal agenda aggressively”.Alleging the economy has “deteriorated” under the Narendra Modi, the parties said the “scary situation” is likely to prevail over the next three years too, given the government’s “committment” to pursuing neo-liberal economic policies and “communal and fascist agenda” of the RSS.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”If you see, none of the promises they made has been implemented. And there is actually a deterioration in the economy as far as people are concerned and the burden on the people has increased, apart from the social tensions,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged.Yechury reiterated his party’s charge against the government of launching a three-pronged attack on people: pursuance of “communal polarisation” to “convert” India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, implementation of neo-liberal economic policies and “undermining” country’s democratic institutions.CPI national secretary D Raja echoed his views and added the agrarian crisis “deepened” during the two years, with number of farmer suicides “going up” and unemployment seeing a “rise”.”The government failed despite a steep fall in crude oil price in the international market. Government failed to recover the economy,” he said.The Parliamentarian also sought to pick flaws in the government’s foreign policy, saying it “lacked transparency” and noted New Delhi’s ties with neighbours including Nepal witnessed “problems” even as the government, he added, was busy “trying to please the US”.”In foreign policy matter, the government was trying to please the US and there was no transparency in the foreign policy affairs and the relations with our neighbours should have improved a lot, but it hasn’t happened with Pakistan, Nepal, everywhere we have problems,” he said.On his part, Yechury underscored the need for launching “widespread and powerful” struggle against the government to defend their right to a “decent” livelihood and in defence of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.”This resistance must reach in this coming year to such levels as to reverse this disastrous course and defeat all efforts to negate our secular democratic foundations,” he said.

Kanhaiya Kumar to get police notice ahead of Pune event today

JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar who is scheduled to address an event in Pune on Sunday, will be issued a pre-emptive notice in which he will be asked to abstain from making any provocative and inciting statements, city police said on Saturday.”After Kanhaiya Kumar comes to the city, he will be issued a notice under section 144 of CrPC asking him to abstain from making any provocative and inciting statements during his speech so that social harmony will be maintained,” Additional Commissioner of Police C Wakade said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police also informed that permission to the event titled as “Rohith Act and safeguarding Indian Constitution” scheduled to be held at Balgandharva Rangmandir, has been given and adequate police bandobast will be deployed at the venue.Preventive notices have been issued to some right-wing organisations which could disrupt the event, he said. “Approximately 250 police personnel, including senior officers of the ranks of DCP, ACP and Police Inspector, will be deployed to make sure that no untoward incident takes place during the event,” said Wakade.He said Kanhaiya will be given police cover to and from the venue. Progressive Students Youth Action Committee, which has organised the event, had yesterday said it has changed the venue in view of the preconditions imposed by the police.The programme, which was earlier scheduled to take place on the premises of Rashtra Seva Dal, was shifted to Balgandharva auditorium, where they got police permission. Local police station had issued a notice to the organisers asking them to fulfil some conditions, such as conducting a fire and structural audit of the venue which prompted them to shift the venue.

Maharashtra: Pune cops demand fire and structural audit for Kanhaiya Kumar’s rally

Pune police have asked organisers of JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s April 24 rally here to fulfill certain pre-conditions for permission for the event, including a fire and structural safety audit.Progressive Students Youth Action Committee, which has invited Kumar, said the notice was a ruse to deny permission.”We had decided to hold the event on the premises of Rashtra Seva Dal and had sought permission from police. Police served us a notice late last night, and we have been asked to fulfil certain pre conditions,” said Girish Phonde, a member of the organising committee.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The notice asked the organisers to conduct “fire and structural audit” of the place, and also warned that as the sitting capacity of the venue is not more than 400, there could be a pandemonium if more people turned out.It also asked the organisers to provide enough parking space, and warned of law and order issues because of anti-social elements in the area.Phonde alleged that these were “pressurising tactics” and a ruse to deny the permission.”We are determined to hold the rally and more and more people will attend it. We are thinking of changing the venue,” he said.Today, police issued a fresh notice saying the permission will be denied if the conditions were not fulfilled, he said.A senior police official told PTI, “We are committed to giving adequate security to the event to avoid untoward incidents. But the organisers should fulfil the conditions as asked by the local police station.”When organisers applied for permission four to five days ago, they had not mentioned the venue, he said.”After we came to know about the venue, we visited the place and found that it’s a very congested area and that’s why certain preconditions were prescribed,” he said.

Make salwar kameez the school uniform for girls to prevent sexual harassment, says TRS MLA

A Telangana Rashtra Samiti MLA called for a strict dress code in order to curb sexual harassment in schools. MLA Konda Surekha said that school uniforms needed to be changed to salwar kameez, the Deccan Chronicle reported.LIVE INDIA vs WEST INDIES 2nd semi final T20, ICC World T20In the state assembly, Surekha proposed a solution to the problem of sexual harassment in schools. According to the report, she said that school uniforms should no longer be dresses, but should be changed to salwar kameez.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Konda Surekha, the legislator from the Warangal East constituency, was quoted as saying, “Salwar kameez should be replaced with short dresses as school uniform because it covers the entire body and also upkeeps modesty.” Surekha was the Minister for Women Development and Child Welfare of undivided Andhra Pradesh in the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government.She said that harassers should be debarred from attending school and strict action should be taken against them. She also called for penalising government employees accused of harassment.

One commits suicide, five critical after demanding cow be declared ‘Mother of Nation’

In a bizzare incident, six people of the ‘Gau Raksha Ekta Samiti’ in Rajkot were hospitalised after they attempted suicide over their demand that the cow be made the ‘Mother of the Nation.’ One of the six people was declared dead on Thursday.On Wednesday, they gave a memorandum to the Rajkot collector demanding to declare cow as the Mother of the Nation and gave 24 hours time. However, the demand was not taken into consideration and they have informed the authority of self-immolation in the collector office itself. Fortunately, none of them lost their lives and were admitted to hospital in time.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”They were demanding the gau (cow ) to be declared as the Rashtra Mata and today they also came to demand it and six of them have drunk poison sort of things and they have been arrested and shifted to the Rajkot hospital where couple of them are little serious,” said Police Inspector Kalpesh Chawda.On Wednesday, the activists went to demand the status of cow as the Mother of the Nation and few members from different cities decided to drink poison as part of the protest.The names of the victims are Kamlesh Rabari from Morbi, Amarbhai from Gondal, Raghuvir Singh Jadeja from Ahmedabad, Deepak Vaghela from Jasdana and Jayubha Jadeja from Khiri village. They all are under medical supervision and treatment. The police have put staff in the emergency ward to take stock of the situation.

JNU row: Stop interfering in central universities: Sitaram Yechury to government

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury today castigated the BJP for trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a “theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra” on the country and asked the government to “stop interfering” in universities which have been set up under central laws.Amid a raging controversy over suicide by a Dalit student and arrests in JNU, he also demanded the setting up of a House Committee to examine the latest developments in various central universities, while initiating the debate in Rajya Sabha on the situation arising in the central institutions of higher learning, including JNU and Hyderabad University.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yechury said an effort was being made to metamorphosise India, a secular democratic republic, into a “theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra”.”Please do not castigate the entire student community and the institutions,” and “stop this tirade for advancing your brand of nationalism”, he said and termed the government’s “interference” in some univerisities as “illegal”.Seeking stern action against all anti-national activities, Yechury said the government was trying to suppress dissent and asked it not to castigate the entire student community and the institutions.Observing that the ruling dispensation was seeking to impose its idea of “narrow nationalism” as against the concept of nationalism defined by a range of people from Emperor Ashoka to Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, Yechury said “this is a serious matter” and wanted to know if opposition to the government could be called “anti-national”.Maintaining that all central universities have been set up under central laws, he sought the setting up of a House Panel to examine the latest developments like “interference” by the Centre in them, while referring to letters written by HRD Minister Smriti Irani to the Hyderabad University.Referring to Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student of Hyderabad University, he said stopping of his scholarship led to a situation being created for him to commit suicide.He said such interference was not only limited to the JNU or Hyderabad University, but could be seen in other insitutions also in different parts of the country and “today you are castigating the entire university as anti-national.” Yechury demanded that the House Committee should “go into what is happening in all central universities” and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru to say that universities were places where debate on all ideas should flourish.On JNU and the speech by its students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, he said “I too want aazadi (freedom). I want freedom from hunger, Manuwad (ancient religious laws) and poverty …. You arrest me if you want to for that, but stop conspiring against our children.”

Intolerance is alarming: NCP Sharad Pawar

Reigniting the debate on intolerance, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday said it has reached “alarming” proportions even as he alleged that attempts are being made to convert India into a “Hindu Rashtra” by distorting history in school textbooks.Addressing a conference of 70 historians from across the country at Y B Chavan Auditorium, he exhorted historians to come together and “pen the truth” for the sake of next generation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Historians are concerned about the intolerance under (the) present atmosphere. It is quite alarming. The manner in which the idea of (a) ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is being promoted can prove to be harmful to the unity and integrity of the nation,” Pawar said in a series of tweets, after his address.The NCP chief said that his meeting with historians is only the first step and that he would take the issue ahead by organising various groups to keep the movement alive.”I am happy that the section of historians and intellectuals have decided to open up and speak in the interest of the society,” he tweeted.In his lecture, the veteran politician alleged that an awareness needs to be created among the youth that some people are trying to “corrupt” their minds to spread poison in society.”Some people are working with an intention of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra by distorting history in school textbooks. This will prove to be dangerous as this will harm the secular fabric of the country,” he said.”Articles need to be written, discussions should take place on this issue as it is a grave matter,” the NCP leader said.Pawar said that the notion that Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji was anti-Muslim was a misleading one.”Some people are spreading rumours that Shivaji Maharaj was anti-Muslim. The fact is that he placed Muslims in important positions in his army. Spreading such hatred is not good for secularism and national integration,” he added.Pawar appealed to the historians to not let the “unscrupulous” elements succeed.”If these elements succeed what will we teach the next generation? There must be a mechanism or institutions to take measures to correct distorted history,” he said, adding that he will provide help in correcting facts in every possible way. He said a separate ‘history wing’ will be set up at Y B Chavan Centre, and historians can take up the responsibility of organising seminars and discussions there.Pawar recently sharpened his attack on the saffron party in the wake of arrest of former NCP MP Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of the party stalwart Chhagan Bhujbal, in a money laundering case.

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