20th December 2005: A Historic Day in democratising our tricolor


20 December 2005 leaves an imprint in the history of the democratisation of the Indian National Flag. On this day, the government of India amended the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971, which enables every citizen to display the national flag (Tiranga) on clothes above the waist with due respect.

National Flag

The democratisation of the Indian National Flag has always been a priority issue for the President of the Flag to empower every citizen to fly and display our National Flag with pride, dignity and Honour.

The person credited with achieving this revolutionary feat was India’s steel baron, Naveen Jindal.

Recalling Jindal’s achievement, Major General (Retd) Ashim Kohli, CEO of Flag Foundation of India, said, “Mr Naveen Jindal always wanted citizens to display the Tiranga to show their respect and pride towards the nation. After he joined the Lok Sabha as a newly elected MP after winning the 2004 general elections from Kurukshetra Constituency, he was informed that a Member of Parliament cannot wear the Tiranga on the clothes under rule 349 (XIV) of the House. Mr Jindal filed a petition to the chair for permission to wear the National flag and got the resolution passed in the Parliament.

“In line with the action, he got amended the Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act-1971 on 20 December 2005, which allowed citizens of India to wear the National Flag above the waist.”

Also Read: Flag Foundation of India welcomes amendment to flag code allowing tiranga to be flown day and night

Maj General (retd) Kohli added, “The landmark decision helped to take the message of patriotism to every Indian and strengthened the roots of Indian democracy. Let us all cherish this historic day and pledge to continue to wear Tiranga on clothes and feel proud.”

A decade-long legal struggle by Jindal ensured that all Indians had the right to display the tiranga on all days of the year with dignity and pride. His struggle for the tricolour began in early 1992 when he hoisted the national flag at his plant in Raigarh.

The then Commissioner of Bilaspur objected to it on the ground that, as per the Flag Code of India, a private citizen was not permitted to fly the Indian flag except on certain days.

This prompted Jindal to file a petition before the high court arguing that no law could forbid Indian citizens from flying the national flag. The high court allowed the petition and held that the Flag Code of India was not a valid restriction on the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Indian constitution.

The Union of India filed an appeal against this decision in the Supreme Court on whether citizens were free to fly the national flag was only a policy decision, and could not be subject to court interference.

The matter then came up for hearing before the Supreme Court, which observed that prima facie they saw no reason why citizens could not express patriotism by displaying the national flag.

The court also observed that restrictions on flying the national flag only on certain days by private citizens seemed unsustainable. The Supreme Court on 23 January 2004 dismissed civil Appeal No. 2920 of 1996 arising out of SLP No. 1888 of 1996 filed by the Union of India against the judgment and order dated 22 September 1995 of Delhi High Court and held that flying the national flag was a symbol of expression that came within the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.