Updated: February 9, 2021 8:48:42 am
Police in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district have booked the mother and brother of a farmer who had died during the farmers’ agitation in Delhi, under The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, after his body was allegedly draped in the national flag.
The deceased farmer, Balvinder Singh (32), died on January 24 near Ghazipur where he was participating in the farmers’ agitation. Police in Pilibhit district have booked his mother Jasveer Kaur (51), and brother Gurvinder Singh (22), under Section 2 of the Act.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Allahabad High Court senior advocate Jaideep Narain Mathur said: “A cognizable offence under The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act can only be made out against someone who intentionally disrespects the flag.”
What Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act says
The law, enacted on December 23, 1971, penalises the desecration of or insult to Indian national symbols, such as the National Flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem, and the Indian map, as well as contempt of the Constitution of India.
Section 2 of the Act, “Insults to Indian National Flag and Constitution of India”, says: “Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, difiles, 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.”
As per the Act, “disrespect to the Indian National Flag means and includes”, among other things, “using the Indian National Flag as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in State funerals or armed forces or other para-military forces funerals”. (Explanation 4(d) under Section 2)
Section 3.22 of The Flag Code of India, 2002 (which deals with laws, practices and conventions that apply to the display of the national flag), reads: “The Flag shall not be used as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in State/Military/Central Paramilitary Forces funerals hereinafter provided.”
Section 3.58 says: “On occasions of State/Military/Central Paramilitary Forces funerals, the flag shall be draped over the bier or coffin with the saffron towards the head of the bier or coffin. The Flag shall not be lowered into the grave or burnt in the pyre.”
Use of flag in funerals
A senior advocate at the Allahabad High Court said that the flag can only be used during a funeral if it is accorded the status of a state funeral.
“Apart from police and armed forces, state funerals are held when people who are holding or have held office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Minister, Chief Minister pass away. The status of a state funeral can be accorded in case of death of people not belonging to the armed forces, police or the above-mentioned categories by the state government. Then too, the national flag can be used,” the advocate said.
The latest to get a state funeral from fields outside police, armed forces and government dignitaries was Roddam Narasimha, who was an aerospace scientist and fluid dynamicist from Andhra Pradesh. Others who were accorded a similar honour recently were actors Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor.
Similar instances earlier
An instance where the body of a deceased was wrapped in the Tricolour was that of the farmer Navreet Singh, who died in Delhi on January 26 during the violence related to the anti-farm laws protests. Photographs of the body draped in the flag had been shared widely on social media.
In October 2016, a deep-freezer casket was covered in the Tricolour, which had the body of 21-year-old Ravin Sisodia, an accused in the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq.
Akhlaq was beaten to death in September 2015 in Dadri’s Bisara village by a mob after an announcement was made asking villagers to assemble since a cow had allegedly been slaughtered.
According to officials, Sisodia, who had tested positive for dengue, died of respiratory and renal complications.
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