Some countries like Brazil, Canada allow for the unrestricted use of the Flag by individuals. On the other side of the spectrum, countries like the UK hold their flag so sacrosanct that individuals are not permitted to use and display the flag. Other countries all try to strike a balance between the two extremes, based on the cherished values of their country, the history behind the evolution of the flag in their country, etc.

Schools of Thoughts on Free Use of Flag

There are two main schools of thoughts governing the free use of the flag. On one hand it is contended that the policy of India has so far been to restrict the use of the National Flag with a view of ensuring that it is not dishonored in any manner. The instructions contained in the Flag Code are intended to ensure that proper respect is shown to the National Flag and that the Flag is not used indiscriminately.

Moreover, a more liberal use of the National Flag would require greater civic awareness on the part of the citizens. A sudden swing to a liberal approach in the matter may create problems, particularly in the matter of ensuring that the correct usages regarding the National Flag are observed by the citizens at large. Unrestricted use of the National Flag may result in commercial exploitation of the Flag. It may be difficult to detect all such instances and take necessary action.

Unrestricted Use of the Flag

Unrestricted use of the Flag may not attract the same level of respect and reverence from the citizens as at present. The unrestricted use of the National Flag may result in its indiscriminate use in processions, meetings, etc. Instances of insults to the National Flag as a matter of protest may also occur. However, on the other hand, there is another set of people who ardently believe that there exists strong reasons to liberalise the use of National Flag for a number of reasons, some of them being: –

Due to the various restrictions imposed on the use and display of the National Flag, an impression has developed among people as if the national Flag is meant for Government use only and the people at large are permitted unrestricted display of National Flag only on certain limited occasions. This has probably created a feeling of dissatisfaction among certain sections of people of India.

With the electronic media and satellite communication becoming popular, it is very difficult to ensure that public display of the National Flag is avoided. For instance, in various international sports or cultural events, people identify themselves with their country by displacing the National Flag. It is an expression of pride. It is an expression of genuine enthusiasm. If the restrictions imposed on the use of the National Flag are implemented scrupulously, it would amount to discouraging the Indian citizens or Indian nationals from identifying themselves with the Flag of the country.

The restrictions imposed on the use of the National Flag should be commensurate with the international practices being adopted by various democratic countries and the Government should not impose any restriction, which distances people from the National Flag. Thus, there exist two very strong views of thought on whether there should be free and unrestricted use of the flag allowed to citizens. The stand taken by other countries definitely has a bearing on the course India has taken so far and the course to be adopted in the future.

It can be seen from the history, reflected very aptly from the discussions in the Constituent Assembly that the flag is definitely one of the most revered objects in our society. It must certainly be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. This might not be possible without imposing any restrictions on its use. But one can see from the global scenario that the major trend is to protect the flag against mutilation, destruction, etc. and not to prevent individuals from having any access to the flag, making its use a virtual exclusive privilege of the government.

Since all Indians fought for freedom, it can never be the intention to deny them use of their National Flag – a symbol of their freedom in entirety. Thus, one can conclude that the basic intention is to provide against the destruction, mutilation, etc. of the Flag and to provide certain basic level rules for when and how it should be compulsorily used. Though not expressly stated, it must therefore give a right of usage to the citizens, other than on the specific occasions specified.

The Freedom to use Flag

Then the question arises, which view is to be accepted. National anthem, National Flag and National Song are secular symbols of the nationhood. They represent the supreme collective expression of commitment and loyalty to the nation as well as patriotism for the country. They are necessary adjunct of sovereignty being symbols and actions associated therewith.

Can an Indian citizen having regard to the law prevailing in other countries fly an Indian flag therein or whether a foreigner can fly his flag in India. If the answer to the question is to be rendered in the negative, a startling result will follow therefrom inasmuch an Indian citizen traveling abroad will be entitled to fly the National Flag but not in India whereas a foreigner would be entitled to do so within the territory of India.

The beauty of the Indian Constitution is that the entire structure of the country is based thereupon. It is the very pillar upon which the democracy of India stands. The unity and integrity of India if to be perceived in diverse situation, the feeling of loyalty, commitment and patriotism can be judged not only by giving effect to the constitutionalism but also on their secular symbol unhidden as noticed hereinbefore. The question of this nature has to be considered not from the answer as to whether their exists an express provision on the basis whereof a right to fly the National Flag can be rested or whether there is anything in the Constitution prohibiting or denying the exercise of such a right.

If flying of a National Flag is considered in absence of any denial thereof either in the Constitution or in any other statute book, it may be held to be a part of the fundamental right.


Union of India v. Naveen Jindal (2004)