In its direction today, the top court also said some differently abled people won't need to stand while national anthem plays in movie halls - a long-standing demand of rights activists. The categories would include autism, cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, Parkinson's decease, people cured of leprosy and those suffering from muscular dystrophy.
While Vande Mataram has been accorded the status of national song, it does not have any constitutional validity. The constitution has provision only for a national anthem and this is seen as one of the reasons why Vande Mataram is not treated with due respect by the common people.
A poem from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel Anandamath, Vande Mataram had been the rallying cry for freedom fighters. After Independence, while Rabindranath Tagore's Jana Gana Mana was accorded the status of the national anthem, it was given the status of national song. In 1950, then President Rajendra Prasad said it would be treated on par with the national anthem.
But making Vande Mataram compulsory has always been a controversial issue. A certain section of Muslims, staring with Mohammad Ali Jinnah before Independence, have argued that worshipping of the motherland violates the tenets of Islam.
The controversy snowballed recently after the move to make singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in Meerut and Varanasi civic bodies. Weighing in, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said opposition to the national song reflected "narrow-mindedness".
On August 23, the court will hear a petition from a Kerela-based film body, requesting the recall of the order that makes playing of the national anthem in movie halls compulsory. The petition has argued that the court can't compel anyone to stand or punish anyone who refuses. The law, it said, recognizes disrespect only to the national flag and not the national anthem.