File Photo by Ibrahim Malik/ Outlook
Flying High the Tricolour on Independence Day

While citizens are now permitted to fly the national flag at home, in offices and even inside their vehicles, most people are still ignorant about the correct way of using a tricolour, say experts.

Also, ahead of the 68th Independence Day, people have been posting profiles of the national flag as their profile picture sparking a discussion on whether or not it amounts to disrespect or violation of laws.

According to 'The Flag Code of India' whenever the tricolour is displayed in open, it should, as far as possible, be flown from sunrise to sunset.

An exception to this is the monumental flag at the Central Park at Connaught Place here, which is flown even after sun goes down. However, say experts, this is not counted as a breach of the Flag Code since the 207 ft-high flagpole is well illuminated even at night.

"The flag at Rajiv Chowk is maintained by Flag Foundation. Around Rs 60,000 per month is spent on its maintenance. There are guards, CCTV cameras and eight lights that keep the flag well lit even at night. The flag is also replaced if torn or dirty," says Commander K V Singh, CEO, Flag Foundation.

A senior Supreme Court lawyer says, "The Indian flag should be held high in honour as it is a symbol of national pride. A damaged or disheveled flag should not be displayed."

The lawyer said failure to follow the flag code, "will lead to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both."

It is a common sight, especially in the days preceding Independence Day to see children celebrating with paper flags. Some paint their own tricolour while others buy it from street hawkers.

The Flag Code of India has also put out rules on disposal off the flags as well as the materials that should not be used like plastic.

"It says paper flags should not be discarded or thrown on the ground. As far as possible, it should be disposed off in private consistent with the dignity of the flag. The flag symbolises our nation; destroying a flag is like destroying your country. Hence, one must be careful and respect dignity of the Indian flag," says a senior Supreme Court lawyer.

Citizens can also sport miniatures of the national flags inside their car on the dashboard or on the wind screen throughout the year, after a Supreme Court order on January 23, 2004, which made flying of the national flag a fundamental right.

However, display of the flag on the bonnet of a motor car can only be done by certain officials of the state and central governments as well as by Chief Justices.

The Flag Code states that the flag "shall be flown from a staff, which should be affixed firmly either on the middle front of the bonnet or to the front right side of the car."

"When the car is not used by these dignitaries, the flag must be removed, folded or well covered," says the Supreme Court lawyer.

Meanwhile, on social media people are not clear about posting the national flag as their display pictures on Facebook and other sites.

A Delhi University student, Apurva Shivam says he received a message on WhatsApp, which said, "The use of the Indian flag in any form of title representation is illegal under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971."

"Though I was not sure if this is true, I felt we must not unknowingly disrespect the flag. So, I forwarded the message to all in my contacts whom I saw had changed the flag as their profile picture."

A civil services aspirant, Prakalpa Kushwaha, says she does not see any disrespect to the flag if a picture of the tricolour is posted as a profile picture.

"I went through several legal texts in this regard and could not find anything wrong about profile pictures as the tricolour. It is true that the flag should not be stitched or pasted improperly but using it is not prohibited at all.

"If some Indian cricket players can put the flag on their helmets and Indian sports contingent can display it on their shirts, what is the wrong in using it as profile picture," queries Kushwaha.

According to Khagesh Jha, a Supreme Court lawyer posting a picture of the national flag as a profile picture is not considered an offence as far as Indian laws are concerned.

"The Supreme Court had ruled in favour of a petition filed by industrialist and politician Naveen Jindal, making the hoisting of the national flag on all days of the year a new fundamental right of Indian citizens.

"Any Indian citizen can hoist the flag without posing any disrepute or offence to the flag," he says.

However, he added that "people should not change the horizontal rectangular shape and the original colours of the flag as doing this may attract legal action."

Kite flying is a popular activity during Independence Day and many people use it to display their affection towards the national flag.

While kites with colours of the national tricolor can be purchased from select places like Lal Kuan, here or the Flag company in Mumbai, there are also clubs that organize kite flying fests to mark the Independence Day.

"I have been organizing kite flying in Lucknow for the past eight years on Independence Day. Tiranaga is a matter of pride for me. I celebrate it by flying kites. Last year I flew the Tiranga at the Wagah border. Even when I go abroad for international shows, I first fly the Tiranga kite and then proceed with others," says Mehul Pathak, founder, Vibrant Kite Club India.

S K Chabaria who has been representing the Mumbai-based Flag Company in Delhi for the past four years says there is a rise in interest from individuals.

"I have never received the kind of response I'm getting this year. Earlier we sold around 15 flags near Independence Day but this year we have already sold 40 flags.

"Previously I never got individual enquiries or police station enquiries for the Indian flag. But this year we had many people calling and three police stations have already been delivered the flag," he says.

Several artistes have also paid homage to the tricolour.

Iqbal Ahmed Khan, from Dilli Gharana, recently adapted Vande Mataram in his composition using three variations of Raga Malhaar to pay tribute to Pingali Venkayya, a freedom fighter, who is considered to have designed the first tricolour.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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