The national anthem must be played in all theatres before the movie, the Supreme Court directed on Tuesday and said this must be followed within a week.
Everyone should rise for the anthem and the national flag should also be on the screen, the court stressed.
“When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism,” said the judges.
Acting on a petition on the alleged misuse of the anthem in TV shows or movies, the court also ruled that it should not be commercially exploited or dramatized or printed on objectionable material.
The petition was filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, who runs an NGO in Bhopal.
It was a rule for cinema halls to play the national anthem after the movie in the 1960s, but people often left in the middle of it. The practice faded away over the years, as multiplexes dramatically transformed movie-watching.
The anthem is still played in theatres in some states. In 2003, Maharashtra made it compulsory for cinemas in the state.
Whether or not to stand in the cinema hall when the anthem is played has generated much debate and confusion.
Last year, the Madras High Court said that in cinema halls, people are not bound to stand for the anthem. The court was responding to the home ministry’s directive to all states that standing would interrupt the film screening and “create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the anthem.”
Abhinav Shrivasav, the lawyer who argued the petition, said there were “no guidelines on the anthem and we wanted the court to pass orders.”