The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday quashed a first information report against a college lecturer for allegedly disrespecting the national anthem during an event in 2018, reported Live Law.

The lecturer, Dr Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, was booked in September 2018 for allegedly dishonouring the national anthem during a function to mark the surgical strikes on terror launchpads across the Line of Control in Pakistan in 2016. The FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint by college students, according to The Indian Express. Bhat was employed on a contractual basis at the Government Degree College in Bani area of Kathua district.

A group of students in Bhat’s college had written to the sub-divisional magistrate, seeking an FIR against the lecturer. The police then registered the FIR on the magistrate’s orders.

A bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar on Friday said that not standing up for the national anthem or singing it may be disrespectful and was a failure to adhere to a citizen’s fundamental duties according to the Constitution. However, the judge said that it could not be considered an offence per se under the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971.

“It is only if the conduct of a person amounts to preventing the singing of Indian National Anthem or causing disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing, it entails penal consequences in terms of Section 3 of the Act,” the High Court said.

In his petition, Bhat said that he along with other members of the staff were standing when everyone was singing the national anthem, reported Greater Kashmir.

Bhat challenged the FIR, saying that the sub-divisional magistrate does not have the power to direct the police to register a case. He pointed out that only a judicial magistrate of first class could pass such orders.

The petition also contended that the allegations did not constitute an offence under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act as he did not prevent the singing of the national anthem or cause any disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing.

The High Court said that an executive magistrate may not be empowered to direct investigation on a cognisable offence under Section 156 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, the court said that the executive magistrate can notify the police about the cognisable offence and direct them to perform their duty.

On whether Bhat’s actions were an offence under the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, the High Court said: “It is the conduct that prevents singing of the National Anthem or that causes disturbance in the assembly engaged in such singing, that is declared as an offence under Section 3 of the Act and punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”