Flag Code [ Indian] is not a statute

Supreme Court in the case of Union of India v. Navin Jindal & Another [(2004) 2 SCC 510], wherein it has, inter alia, been held that the Flag Code which, inter alia, prescribes that the national flag after sunset be lowered down is not a law within the meaning of Article 13 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court held as under:-

“78. Flag Code is not a statute; thereby the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) is not regulated. But the guidelines as laid down under the Flag Code deserve to be followed to the extent it provides for preservation of dignity and respect for the National Flag. The right to fly the National Flag is not an absolute right. The freedom of expression for the purpose of giving a feeling of nationalism and for that purpose all that is required to be done is that the duty to respect the flag must be strictly obeyed. The pride of a person involved in flying the flag is the pride to be an Indian and that, thus, in all respects respect to it must be shown. The State may not tolerate even the slightest disrespect.”

5. To appreciate the arguments of the parties, Clause 2.2 (xi) of the Flag Code needs to be extracted. It reads as under:-

“2.2. A member of public, a private organisation or an educational institution may hoist/display the National Flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise. Consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag �

(xi) where the Flag is displayed in open, it should, as far as possible, be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of weather conditions.”

6. The said clause does not mandatorily contemplate lowering the Flag after sunset. The Supreme Court in Navin Jindal’s Case (supra) held as under:-

“(i) Right to fly the National Flag freely with respect and dignity is a fundamental right of a citizen with the meaning of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India being an expression and manifestation of his allegiance and feelings and sentiments of pride for the nation.

(ii) The fundamental right to fly the National Flag is not an absolute right but a qualified one being subject to reasonable restrictions under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

(iii) The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 regulate the use of the National Flag.

(iv) Flag Code although is not a law within the meaning of Article 13(3)(a) of the Constitution of India for the purpose of clause (2) of Article 19 thereof, it would not restrictively regulate the free exercise of the right of flying the National Flag. However, the Flag Code to the extent it provides for preserving respect and dignity of the National Flag, the same deserves to be followed.

(v) For the purpose of interpretation of the constitutional scheme and for the purpose of maintaining a balance between the fundamental/legal rights of a citizen vis-a-vis, the regulatory measures/restrictions, both Parts IV and IV-A of the Constitution of India can be taken recourse to.”


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