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Jehovah’s Witnesses in India to sue for right to not stand for national anthem

Audience members stand for the Indian national anthem before a movie starts at a cinema in New Delhi on December 4, 2016.
Audience members stand for the Indian national anthem before a movie starts at a cinema in New Delhi on December 4, 2016. (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Jehovah’s Witnesses in India are looking to overturn a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring movie theatres to play the country’s national anthem before every film, and audience members to stand for the anthem, according to the Indian Express.

The sect’s members believe the singing of national anthems constitutes an act of unfaithfulness towards god, according to the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

The Indian Express reports that a U.S.-based lawyer is working to help file an application seeking to overturn the apex court’s ruling.

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On Nov. 30, 2016, the Supreme Court of India ruled that audience members in movie theatres must stand for a rendition of the national anthem accompanied by images of the Indian flag, “to show respect for the national anthem and the national flag.”

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The ruling was made after a petition by a 78-year-old citizen who said he was rebuked by moviegoers sitting behind him in a theatre 16 years ago, after he decided to stand when the national anthem was played as part of a scene in a Bollywood movie.

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It comes just over three months after a disabled man was allegedly harassed in a movie theatre in the Indian state of Goa because he didn’t stand up while the national anthem was being played, as reported by the Indian Express.

The order appears to overturn a 1986 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ freedom to not partake in anthem singing.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy to have had a part in contributing to the constitutional freedoms of all citizens in India,” reads an article on the evangelical group’s website detailing the 1986 ruling.