A Magistrate court recently acquitted a man booked under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act in 2015 for allegedly not removing the national flag from a building after sunset. Dhanpatraj Jain (52), a resident of Lalbaug in central Mumbai, was booked on the day after Independence Day, August 16, 2015, for allegedly disrespecting the national flag by not removing it within the “prescribed time”.
The metropolitan magistrate court, in an order last Friday, had held that there was no evidence to show that Jain had hoisted the flag or that its removal was his responsibility.
According to the prosecution, on receiving information that a flag hoisted in Hanuman Co-op Housing Society in Lalbaug had not been removed in the evening, the police filed a complaint against Jain under Section 2 of the Act.
The section pertains to insult to the Indian national flag, but does not specify provisions on removal of the flag at a prescribed time or after sunset.
The prosecution examined three witnesses in the case, including informant Prakash Desai and the investigating officer of the case. The witnesses claimed that after they received information about the flag being hoisted post sunset, they visited the terrace of the building and removed it. During cross-examination by Jain’s advocate, the witnesses admitted that they did not know whether he was the office-bearer of the building.
“..Even in the private premises flag hoisting and removal of flag has to be done by the office-bearer. The responsibility must be given to some person so that the national flag cannot be contempted (sic) or disrespected.
However, here the investigation machinery failed miserably to disclose the names of the office-bearer of the said society where the flag was hoisted. They failed to establish that the duty of removal of flag was given to accused by the society,” the court said. It further said that the witnesses were only ‘hearsay’ in nature and were not actual eyewitnesses or independent witnesses to the incident. “No eyewitness examined by the prosecution for reasons best known to it,” the court said, while observing that it was unjust to conclude that the accused had failed to discharge his duty and had intentionally not removed the flag.
The court directed that the seized flag be sent to the collector after the appeal period was over.