The National Anthem Case: The Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court of India passed a judgment on 11 August 1986 in which it held that the three students were not guilty of disrespecting the National Anthem just because they refused to sing it. Moreover, they did stand in respect whenever the National Anthem was being sung. This was seen in the case of Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors vs State Of Kerala & Ors (1987 AIR 748, 1986 SCR (3) 518) and the case was presided over by Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy.


A national anthem depicts the people of a country, their challenges, their story across time, their traditions, and information about its people. It is often a patriotic song, a musical composition that is officially recognized by the government or the country’s constitution.

In this case, Bijoe, Binu Mol, and Bindu Emmanuel, the three kid appellants, were Jehovah’s Witnesses When the National Anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was sung during the morning assembly at school, they stood politely but did not sing. The reason is that it violates the precepts of their religious faith—not the words or sentiments of the Anthem, but the singing of it. This they and their elder sisters who attended the same school before them have done for many years. Nobody was bothered, and no one was concerned. Nobody considered it offensive or unpatriotic. In July 1985, a member of the Legislative Assembly observed that the youngsters were not singing the National Anthem, which he considered disloyal. submit a question to the Assembly A Commission was formed to investigate and report. According to the Commission, the children are ‘law-abiding’ and did not insult the National Anthem. They have always stood silently in reverence. The children were expelled from the school on July 26, 1985, on the orders of the Deputy Inspector of Schools. The children petitioned the High Court for an order preventing the authorities from preventing them from attending school. The children’s plea was rejected by both a learned single judge and a Division Bench. They moved to the Supreme Court on special leave under Article 136 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court reviewed the arguments and formulated the following issues:

  1. If the three students’ expulsion from a Kerala school is warranted under the Kerala Education Act (Section 36), Kerala Education Rules (Rules 6 and 9), and Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971?
  2. Is the expulsion of the children from school in accordance with the rights protected by Articles 19(1) and 25 of the Indian Constitution?


In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Article 19(a), which provides freedom of expression, and Article 25, which guarantees the right to freely profess, practise, and propagate religion, are fundamental rights granted to all citizens. Over here, forcing every student to sing the National Anthem despite real concerns that it would offend their religious beliefs obviously violates the right provided by Articles 19(1)(a) and 25(1) of the Indian Constitution.

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled in this case that the three students were not guilty of disrespecting the National Anthem simply by refusing to sing it. Furthermore, they always stood in respect.

Furthermore, the Court ruled that applicable regulatory measures enacted by the State of Kerala’s Department of Education on compulsory participation in singing the national anthem in schools amounted to mere “departmental instructions,” and thus lacked statutory force within the meaning of Article 19 of the Constitution in order to limit the right to free expression. Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (AIR 1963 SC 1295), is another case in point. “Any law which may be established under clauses (2) to (6) of Art. 19 to control the exercise of the right to the freedoms given by Art. 19(1)(a) to (e) and (g) must be ‘a law’ with statutory force and not a mere executive or departmental order,” the Court rules.

The Court concluded that the children’s removal from school infringed their rights to free expression and religion. As a result, it overturned the High Court’s decision and ordered the State of Kerala to readmit them to school. “Our tradition teaches tolerance, our philosophy preaches tolerance, our Constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it,” it ended.


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