FACT SHEET

FLAG CODE OF INDIA, 2002

    The Indian National Flag represents the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. It is the symbol of our national pride. Over the last five decades, several people including members of armed forces have ungrudgingly laid down their lives to keep the tricolour flying in its full glory.

    There is universal affection and respect for, and loyalty to the National Flag. Yet, a perceptible lack of awareness is often noticed, not only amongst people but also in the organisations/ agencies of the Government, in regard to laws, practices and conventions that apply to the display of the National Flag. Hoisting and use (including misuse and insult) of the National Flag is regulated by the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950; the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971; and Flag Code – India.

    ‘Flag Code-India’ is neither a statute nor a statutory rule or regulation. It is, in reality, a mere consolidation of executive instructions issued by the Government of India from time to time and contains detailed instruction in regard to the shape, size and colour of the National Flag, the correct display, instances of misuse and display on National Days or special occasions.

    And now, Flag Code of India, 2002 is an attempt to bring together all such laws, conventions, practices and instructions for the guidance and benefit of all concerned.

    For the sake of convenience, Flag Code of India, 2002 has been divided into three parts. Part I of the code contains general description of the National Flag. Part II of the Code is devoted to the display of the National Flag by members of public, private organizations and educational institutions. Part III of the Code relates to display of the National Flag by Central and State governments and their organisations and agencies.

    Flag Code of India, 2002 has taken effect from January 26, 2002 by superseding the ‘Flag Code – India’ as it existed.

Historical Significance

    The Constituent Assembly realised the importance of the Flag proposed to be adopted for Independent India. The Constituent Assembly, therefore, set up an Ad Hoc Flag Committee, headed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, to design the flag for free India. Other members of the Committee were Abul Kalam Azad, K.M. Panikar, Sarojini Naidu, C.Rajagopalachari, K.M. Munshi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

    The Flag Committee was constituted on June 23, 1947. It held several meetings and studied the question in depth. After detailed deliberations it arrived at the decisions on July 14, 1947.

    It was decided that the Flag of the Indian National Congress should be adopted as the National Flag of India with suitable modifications, to make it acceptable to all parties and communities. It should be tri-coloured, made of three rectangular panels or sub-panels of equal widths. The colour of the top panel should be India saffron (Kesari) and that of the bottom panel should be India green. The middle panel should be white, bearing at its centre the design of Ashoka Chakra in navy blue colour with 24 equally spaced spokes. The Ashoka Chakra should preferably be screen printed or otherwise printed or stenciled or suitably embroidered and should be completely visible on both sides of the Flag in the centre of the white panel.

    The National Flag of India should be made of hand-spun and hand-woven wool/cotton/silk khadi bunting.The National Flag should be rectangular in shape. The ratio of the length to the height (width) of the Flag shall be 3:2.

    Dr. S. Radhakrishnan thought it prudent to clarify that the colours adopted in the flag had no communal significance. He said "Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here on which all other life depends. The Ashoka wheel in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or Satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of all those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change and hence, this deviation does not revolt against the original idea of having a spinning-wheel in the National Flag".

    The resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru was carried unanimously. After the adoption of the National Flag, the Secretariat of the Constituent Assembly published an authorised design of the Flag. After India became Republic, the Indian Standards Institution (now Bureau of Indian Standards) brought out specifications of the National Flag for the first time in 1951 which were revised in 1964 with a view to completely changing over the dimensions of the flag to the metric system. The specifications were further revised on 17th August, 1968. These specifications cover all the essential requirements of the National Flag for its manufacture including sizes, colour, trichromatic values and brightness.

    The hand-woven khadi for the National Flag was initially manufactured at Garag, a small village in Dharwad district in north Karnataka. A Centre was established at Garag in 1954 by a few freedom fighters under the banner of Dharwad Taluk Kshetriya Seva Sangh and obtained the Centre’s licence to make flags. Regular production of National Flags, however, started only from 1972 onwards. In accordance with the specifications, a piece measuring one square foot of flag, khadi should weigh 205 grams only.

Flag Code – India, 2002

    A person was prevented by the officials of Madhya Pradesh government from flying the National Flag at his factory premises as Flag Code – India did not permit it on private buildings by individuals except on special occasions. The person moved the Delhi High Court challenging the legality of restrictions contained in the Flag Code – India relating to flying of the National Flag by private citizens and seeking a writ restraining the Union of India and the Madhya Pradesh government from interfering with his right to fly the National Flag on his premises in a respectful manner.

    In Its judgement, the Delhi High Court held that the right to fly the National Flag is a fundamental right within the meaning of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and reasonable restrictions can be imposed by law. The High Court also held that the restrictions imposed by the Flag Code – India had not been authorised by any law within the meaning of clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution and could not, therefore, stand in view of the earlier decisions of the Supreme Court holding that no curbs could be imposed on the rights of the citizens through executive instructions. The Delhi High Court held that "it could not be disputed that right to fly the National Flag at the premises of a person, whether at his residence factory or office, is a part of his fundamental right of freedom of expression and that right can be restricted only by Parliament in the circumstances mentioned in Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution……. The restrictions imposed by the Flag Code on flying the National Flag have not been authorized by any law framed under Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution." The operative part of the High Court’s judgement reads as "This petition is allowed. A mandamus is issued to the respondents restraining them from interfering with the right of the petitioner to fly the National Flag on his premises and we hold that any restriction contained in the Flag Code – India relating to the flying of National Flag by the citizens cannot be enforced except when contravention of those restrictions come within the purview of any law in force".

    On an SLP filed by the Union of India in the Supreme Court, the judgment of the Delhi High Court was stayed. The SLP filed by the Union of India came up for hearing on 1.8.2000. The Court was prima facie of the view that there should not be any restriction on the citizens on expressing their patriotism by displaying the National Flag.

    Considering the reverence that the National Flag is entitled to, the policy of the Government had been to restrict the use of the National Flag by the citizens at large. In several countries, some restrictions on the free use of the National Flag by the citizens have been imposed. For instance, in the US Flag Code, free use by citizens is not specifically defined. The US Flag Code advocates flying of the flag with dignity and prohibits mutilation or defilement in public and its use as costumes, athletic uniforms, cushions and handkerchiefs. While stating that the Flag should be displayed on all days, it specifies certain days on which it should be flown specially. In United Kingdom, flying of the Flag is restricted to certain dates and on specified buildings. On the other hand, Canada allows unrestricted display of the National Flag subject to the stipulation that, at all times, the Flag should be treated with dignity and respect and flown and displayed properly. In Australia, individuals are allowed to fly the National flag on specified days only. Japan has not defined the free use of National Flag by individual citizens. Among India’s neighbours, Pakistan allows free display of National Flag on specified days only as may be notified by the Government. Similarly, Sri Lanka also permits display of National Flag on days of its national importance only. It will, therefore, be seen that most of the countries have not permitted unrestricted use of the National Flag by private individuals. However, flying of the National flag by private citizens is permitted on certain specified days.

    The views of the State governments were also solicited. Most of the State governments were not in favour of unrestricted display of the National Flag. The government has, however, decided to allow unrestricted display of the National Flag by members of the general public, keeping in view the public sentiments. While bringing out the Flag Code of India, 2002 the Government has also ensured that the unrestricted display of the National Flag is consistent with the honour and dignity of the National Flag.