From time immemorial, people have laid down their lives with a view to salute their own Flag. What is so compelling in the piece of cloth called the National Flag, that people make even the supreme sacrifice for its sake? National Flag indisputably stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements.

“A National Flag” as pointed by Lt. Cdr. K.V. Singh in his book ‘Our National Flag’ is the most solemn symbol of a country. Be it a Head of the State, King or peasant, salutes it. A piece of cloth called the National Flag stands for the whole nation, its honour and glory. When it goes up the flag mast, “the heart of a true citizen is filled with pride.” In his foreword to this very book, Mr. R. Venkataraman, former President of India, referred to the struggle for independence and said as under:

“Our flag, therefore, is both a benediction and beckoning. It contains the blessings of all those great souls who brought us to freedom. But it also beckons us to fulfil their vision of a just and united India. As we confront crucial challenges to our security, our unity and integrity, we cannot but heed to the call of this flag to rededicate ourselves to the establishment of that peaceful and just order wherein all Indians irrespective of creed, caste or sex will fulfil themselves.”

The Discussion about National Flag in Constituent Assembly

When the draft of Indian Constitution was being debated, the Constituent Assembly realized the importance of the National Flag. An ad hoc committee therefor was constituted 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 having been constituted held several meetings and studied the question in depth. It arrived at the following decision:

“(a) 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 in India.

(b) The flag should be tricoloured, with three bands horizontally arranged.

(c) The colours should be in the following order: saffron on top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom.

(d) The emblem of the flag should be an exact reproduction of the wheel on the capital of Asoka’s Sarnath Pillar, superimposed in the middle of the central white band.

(e) The colour of the emblem should be dark blue.”

A motion was moved by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly of India on 22nd July 1947 for the adoption of the National Flag. The responses to this motion are extremely significant and serve as apt reflections of the importance of the Indian Flag to the Indian people as a whole. The Flag played an extremely vital role in India’s struggle for freedom and its adoption was one of the indications of the culmination of that struggle. However, in the light of the present society, it is something that is much more than a mere symbol of freedom.

The Importance of a National Flag

As said by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the flag is, “a flag of freedom not for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom to all people who may seek it.” (See Constituent Assembly Debates, 22nd July 1947, p. 766) It was not to be the flag of the rich or wealthy, but it is to be the Flag of the depressed, oppressed and submerged classes all over the country. (See the views of Shri V.I. Muniswami Pillai, in Constituent Assembly Debates, 22nd July 1947, p.771).

This flag was to be the flag of the Nation, not the flag of any particular community, but the Flag of all Indians. As declared by Shri Frank Anthony, “while this is a symbol of our past, it inspires us for the future. This flag flies today as the flag of the nation, and it should be the duty and privilege of every Indian not only to cherish and live under it, but if necessary, to die for it.” (See Constituent Assembly Debates, 22nd July 1947, p. 780)

The significance of the National Flag was aptly portrayed by Pandit Govind Malaviya who said,

“The importance of a National Flag does not depend on its colour, its bands or its other parts. The flag as a whole, is important and other things- the colours etc, that it contains- are immaterial. The flag may be of a piece of white cloth or of any other insignificant material but when it is accepted as a National Flag, it becomes the emblem of national self-respect. It becomes an expression of the sense of freedom of a nation.”

The resolution which was adopted as under:

“Resolved that the National Flag of India shall be a horizontal tricolour of deep Saffron (Kesari), white and dark green in equal proportion. In the center of the white band, there shall be a wheel of navy blue to represent the Chakra. The design of the wheel shall be that of the Wheel (Chakra) which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka.”

National Flags are intended to project the identity of the country they represent and foster national spirit. Their distinctive designs and colours embody each nation’s particular character and proclaim the country’s separate existence. Thus it is veritably common to all nations that a national flag has a great amount of significance. In order that the respect and dignity of the flag be fostered and maintained, several countries have laid down rules relating to the use, display, etc. of the flag, along with rules to provide against the burning, mutilation and destruction of the flag.

Flag Code, 2000

A committee was constituted by the Union of India on or about 18.10.2000 submitted its report in April 2001 upon obtaining the views of the State Governments and the Union Territory Administrations as regard the questions:

(a) Whether there is need to liberalize the use of the National Flag. If so, to what extent?

(b) Whether the State Government foresee any problems in liberalizing the use of the National Flag.

(c) If the use of the National Flag is to be liberalised for general public, what type of reasonable restrictions may be imposed to ensure that the dignity of the flag is maintained.

(d) Whether the provisions of the Flag Code – India should have statutory back-up.”

The Committee constituted by the Central Government took into consideration the history and genesis of the Flag and inter alia noticed:

“3.1 From time immemorial, people have laid down their lives for their flags. Indeed, there is something so compelling in this piece of cloth, called the National Flag, that people make even the supreme sacrifice for its sake. The National Flag stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements. It is a beacon showing to its people the path when their very existence is threatened. It is at this time of danger that this much length of cloth inspires people to unite under its umbrella and urge them to defend the honour of their motherland.”

The recommendations made by the said Committee was placed before the Cabinet where after the Flag Code of India 2002 was issued which came into force with effect from 26.1.2002.

The Scheme of the Flag Code

The said Flag Code has been divided into three parts

Part I of the Code contains the description of the National Flag.

Part II provides for the mode and manner of hoisting/display/use of National Flag by members of the public, private organizations, educational institutions etc.

Part III of the Code relates to hoisting/display of the National Flag by the Central and State Governments and their organizations and agencies.

Section I of Part III provides for defence installations/Heads of Missions/Posts whereas Section II provides for official display.

Section II of Part II provides for as to how the National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions.

Section III of Part III lays down the manner in which correct display of the National Flag should be made and in contrast thereto Section IV provides for incorrect display.

Section V provides as to how misuse of the National Flag should be prevented.

Section VI provides for salute of the Flag.

Section VII provides that display with flags of other Nations and of United Nations.

Read Complete Flag Code here