The court has ruled the national anthem must be played in cinemas and everyone must stand. It said the decision would instill patriotism and nationalism.
Indian cinemas must play the national anthem before screening movies and everyone in attendance is required to stand, the country's Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling comes as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes Hindu nationalism against criticism from some liberal corners.
The court said the national flag should be displayed on the screen, entry and exit doors to the hall should be shut and everyone must stand during the 52-second national anthem, according to Abhinav Shrivastava, the lawyer for the plaintiff in the case, an NGO supporting the new rule.
"Time has come that people must feel and show respect to the national anthem, the symbol of constitutional patriotism," broadcaster NDTV quoted the judges as saying in their decision. The court said the decision would instill patriotism and nationalism in movie-goers.
Many cinemas already play the national anthem before movie screenings, but until Wednesday's verdict it was only mandatory in the state of Maharashtra. The issue over whether everyone must stand has been a subject of debate.
In October, public outrage accompanied reports of a man in a wheelchair being assaulted at a cinema in Goa after he didn't stand during the national anthem. Media reported last year that a Muslim couple was kicked out of a cinema after they didn't stand during the national anthem.
Critics of the court's decision derided the assault on freedom of expression, but also took the opportunity to poke fun at the government.
Indian film maker Shekhar Kapur said on Twitter he hoped the court would also order the parliament to sing the national anthem.
Comedian Sorabh Pant tweeted that maybe the top court should have politicians sing the national anthem when they break things.
The ruling BJP welcomed the ruling. "It is a reminder to people that we have to have our affection and our duty to our national institutions and our national symbols," BJP spokesman Nalin Kohlisaid.
cw/msh (AFP, epd, dpa)