The Indian flag was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on July 22, 1947.
The first national flag, which consisted of three horizontal stripes of red, yellow and green, is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906, at the Parsee Bagan Square, near Lower Circular Road, in Calcutta (now Kolkata).
Later, in 1921, freedom fighter Pingali Venkayya met Mahatma Gandhi and proposed a basic design of the flag, consisting of two red and green bands.
After undergoing several changes, the Tricolour was adopted as our national flag at a Congress Committee meeting in Karachi in 1931.
The earliest rules for the display of the national flag were originally 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 Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 prohibits the desecration of or insult to the country’s national symbols, including the national flag, the Constitution, the national anthem and the Indian map.
The Section 2 of the Act says, “Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or [otherwise shows disrespect to or brings] into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
Among the other acts which are considered to be of disrespect to the national flag are dipping the Tricolour in salute to any person or thing, waving it at half-mast except on specific occasions, or using it as a drapery in any form whatsoever, except in state funerals or for the last rites of armed forces or other paramilitary forces.
Further, putting any kind of inscription upon the flag, using it to cover a statue, a monument or platform, and embroidering or printing it on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material is also considered disrespect to the Tricolour, according to the Act.
Moreover, the flag should not be allowed to touch the ground or trail in water, or be put up in an inverted manner.
In 2002, the Flag Code of India came into effect which allowed the unrestricted display of the Tricolour as long as the honour and dignity of the flag were being respected.
The flag code did not replace the pre-existing rules governing the correct display of the flag; it was, however, an effort to bring together all the previous laws, conventions and practices.
What are the restrictions on the display of the Tricolour according to the flag code?
The Flag Code of 2002 is divided into three parts — a general description of the tricolour, rules on display of the flag by public and private bodies and educational institutions, and rules for display of the flag by governments and government bodies.
It states that there will be no restriction on the display of the flag by public and private bodies and educational institutions except to the extent as laid down in the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
It mentions that the tricolour cannot be used for commercial purposes, and cannot be dipped in salute to any person or thing.
It further states that whenever the flag is displayed, it should be distinctly placed and should “occupy the position of honour”. Among the things which are not allowed is putting up a damaged or dishevelled flag, flying the tricolour from a single masthead simultaneously with other flags, and no other object, including flowers or garlands, or flag should be placed on the same height beside the tricolour or above it.
Moreover, the flag should not be used as a festoon, or for any kind of decoration purposes. Any tricolour which is damaged should be destroyed in private, “preferably by burning or by any other method consistent with the dignity of the Flag”.
Also, any paper flags, which are used on occasions of national and cultural occasions or sporting events, should not be casually discarded and must be disposed of in private.
For official display, only flags that conform to the specifications as laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards and bearing their mark can be used.
The flag code states that the tricolour can be of nine standard dimensions — 6300 x 4200, 3600 x 2400, 2700 x 1800, 1800 x 1200, 1350 x 900, 900 x 600, 450 x 300, 225 x 150 and 150 x 100 (all sizes in mm).
It further adds that flags of 450 x 300 mm size should be used on VVIP flights, 225 x 150 mm on cars and all table flags should be 150 x 100 mm in size.
Moreover, the tricolour should be rectangular in shape and the length-to-width ratio should always be 3:2.
The national flag should always be made of hand-spun and hand-woven wool or cotton or silk khadi bunting, it further adds.
The flag code mandates that the tricolour should always be distinctly placed and should “occupy the position of honour”. The flag should always be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
When a flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally from a window sill, balcony or front of a building, the saffron band should be at the farther end of the staff. When displayed on a speaker’s platform, the flag should be placed on the speaker’s right as s/he faces the audience or flat against the wall above and behind the speaker. When displayed on a car, the flag should be flown from a staff fixed either in the middle of the bonnet or the front right of the car.
When carried in a parade, the flag should either be in the front of the centre of the line or towards the right of the file that is marching forward.
The flag code further states that when the Tricolour is passing by in a parade, or during a ceremony of hoisting or lowering of the flag, the persons present should stand at attention and salute the flag. Dignitaries should remove their headgears before saluting the flag.
In the event of the death of heads of states, dignitaries or during state funerals, the tricolour can be flown at half-mast during the period of mourning. However, if the period of mourning coincides with events of national importance, such as Independence Day, Republic Day, etc., the tricolour should not be flown at half-mast anywhere except over the building in which the body of the deceased is lying.
What are some of the instances of alleged flag code violations in recent times?
Over the years, there have been numerous allegations of the flag code being violated, with even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sania Mirza and Amitabh Bachchan being accused of “insulting” the Tricolour.
In 2007, a legal notice was served on Tendulkar after a video surfaced in which he was seen cutting a cake with the Tricolour on it. In the same year, an FIR was filed against Mandira Bedi after she wore a sari that had a tricolour on it.
A year later, Sania Mirza got embroiled in a controversy after a photo started doing the rounds in which she was seen sitting with her feet up on a table next to the national flag.
In 2011, a case was filed against Amitabh Bachchan for wrapping himself up in the tricolour while celebrating India’s victory against Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. A complaint was filed against Shahrukh Khan as well for “insulting” the flag after photos showed that he had held the tricolour upside down while celebrating India’s World Cup win.
More recently, when a farmer, Balvinder Singh (32), died on January 24 this year near Ghazipur while participating in the farmers’ agitation, UP Police booked his mother and brother following allegations that the body had been draped in the national flag.
The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 states that the flag cannot be used as a “drapery in any form whatsoever except in State funerals or armed forces or other para-military forces funerals”.
There were similar allegations of flag code violations when the bodies of farmer Navreet Singh, who died in Delhi on January 26, and Ravin Sisodia, who was an accused in the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in 2015, were reportedly wrapped in tricolour after their death.
In May this year, Union Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel accused Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of using the national flag as a “decoration” during a televised address.
“It appears that the national flag has been used for decoration. The white portion in the centre appears to have been reduced and the green portion added to it, which is not in tune with provisions of the Indian Flag Code specified by the Ministry of Home Affairs,” Patel wrote in a letter addressed to Kejriwal.
Patel, while referring to a subsequent address by Kejriwal, said the Delhi CM later “rectified his mistake”.
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