The Indian National flag represents the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. It is the symbol of our national pride deriving universal affection and respect, loyalty. Yet, a perceptible lack of awareness is noticed not only amongst people but also in the organisations/agencies of the Government, in regard to the laws, practices and conventions that apply to the display of the National Flag. Apart from non-statutory instructions issued by the Government from time to time, display of the National Flag is governed by the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. The Ministry of Home Affairs in 2002 published the Flag Code of India in an attempt to bring together all such laws, conventions, practices and instructions for the guidance and benefit of all citizens.
Earlier, the policy in India had been to restrict the use of its National Flag with a view to ensure that it was not dishonored. But, in 2004, the Supreme Court of India observed that as a symbol of nationalism and freedom, Indians cannot be denied the use of the national flag. The Court found that flying the national flag was a symbol of “expression and manifestation of a citizen’s allegiance and feelings and sentiments of pride for the nation” that came within the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
However, as the protection under Art. 19 is not absolute, the Hon’ble Court added - “so long as the expression is confined to nationalism, patriotism and love for motherland, the use of the National Flag by way of expression of those sentiments would be a fundamental right. It cannot be used for commercial purpose or otherwise.” As the Flag Code of India is not a statute, but merely an executive order of the Government, it could not legitimately regulate the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Nonetheless, the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 could regulate the flying of the National Flag, as long as their regulations were reasonable under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
Accordingly, although not expressly provided anywhere, the Court found that citizens must be given the right to use the national flag subject to limitations preventing its disrespect, destruction or mutilation.
The Do’s and Don’ts that need to be adhered to for hoisting the Tricolour are:
- The National Flag of India should be made of hand-spun and hand-woven wool/cotton/silk and in rectangular shape. The ratio of the length and width should be 3:2.
- Whenever the flag is displayed, it should always be displayed distinctly. The saffron panel should be on the top. When the flag is hoisted it should be fat and horizontal.
If the flag is to be displayed vertically, the saffron band should always be to the right with reference to the flag, and to the left with reference to the person facing it.
Waving of paper Flags on important national, cultural and sports events is allowed. However, these cannot be thrown on the ground once the event ends.
- If the Flag is in a damaged or soiled condition, it shall be destroyed as a whole in private, preferably by burning or by any other method consistent with the dignity of the Flag.
- When the flag is hoisted open, it should be flown from sunrise to sunset. However, in the year 2009, the Central Government permitted the hoisting of mammoth-sized National Flags on monumental flagpoles during the night provided the Flag is illuminated properly with backup in case of power failure and the is replaced immediately as soon as it gets damaged due to vagaries of nature.
- The Flag must always be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
- All people should face the flag and stand at attention, when the flag is being hoisted.
- Damaged or crumbled flag should not be hoisted or displayed.
- It should not be flown half-mast (represents depressed and mourning).
- Any other flag or emblem should not be placed either above or right to the National Flag.
- It should not be used as a decoration or banner in any form.
- It should not be used a costume or uniform. It should not used as a toy for children.
- It should not be printed or embroidered upon handkerchiefs, dresses or on cushion covers.
- The flag shall not be used as receptacle for receiving, delivering, holding or carrying anything. There are however no objections to flower petals be kept inside the Flag before it is unfurled.
- The Flag shall not be intentionally allowed to touch the ground or floor or trail in water.
- No one should burn, mutilate, deface, disfigure, destroy, trample or show disrespect to or bring into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the National Flag.
- Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950
- Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
- Flag Code of India, 2002
- Union of India v. Naveen Jindal and Anr. [AIR 2004 SC 1559]