In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India on 23 January 2004 ruled in favour of industrialist and former MP from Kurukshetra Naveen Jindal, holding that every Indian is allowed to hoist the national flag on all days of the year.
Jindal had fought a decade-long courtroom battle to ensure that the hoisting of the tricolour is a fundamental right of every citizen of this country.
But despite the apex court’s ruling, the Kerala government ahead of Independence Day in 2017 had issued an order apparently in a bid to prevent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat from hoisting the national flag at a school in Palakkad.
However, this time as a precautionary measure, the state government instead of any restraining order, issued a circular on 23 January saying that in all public offices, schools and colleges in the state, the flag should be hoisted by the heads of the departments.
Is another RSS versus CPM confrontation in waiting?
Last year’s order of the Pinarayi Vijayan government had kicked up a controversy that resulted in the transfer of the Palakkad district collector. Last year, on the occasion of 70 years of Indian independence, Bhagwat ignored the district administration’s prohibition order and hoisted the tricolour at a school run by the Kannakiamann Educational Society in Palakkad. It led to a war of words between the ruling CPM and RSS.
BJP’s Palakkad unit president E Krishnadas had told The Indian Express that the state government directive was not binding upon the school. “It doesn’t come under the state. The Vyasa Vidya Peethom is a private school and follows the CBSE curriculum.”
According to RSS sources, the Kerala government’s circular is an attempt to ensure that the RSS chief does not hoist the flag in the CPM-ruled state. However, the Sangh has played it safe, as Bhagwat will unfurl the tricolour at a Sangh Parivar-affiliated private school.
As a part of a three-day meeting of the RSS in Palakkad, Bhagwat is expected to hoist the tricolor at Vyasa Vidya Peethom — a Vidya Bharati affiliated private higher secondary school at Kallekkad in Palakkad district.
“The notification issued by the Kerala government, on behalf of the CPM, is aimed at preventing sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat from hoisting the national flag on Republic Day. It is unbecoming of a chief minister to stoop to the level of a CPM secretary to infringe upon the right of common people and prevent them from discharging their duty as responsible and patriotic citizens of Bharat. It is quite unfortunate that a government is misusing its power to take political revenge,” senior RSS functionary and national convener, Prajna Pravah, J Nandkumar said in his statement.
What does the Flag Code of India say?
“There shall be no restriction on the display of the National Flag by members of general public, private organisations, educational institutions, etc, except to the extent provided in the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950”: Part II, Section 1 (2.1).
“As the notification contradicts the Flag Code of India, which allows any citizen of this nation to raise the flag on Republic Day and Independence Day, it is clearly understood that this politically motivated notification will not withstand Constitutional scrutiny. So, the programme of the sarsanghchalak will be held as per the schedule at the same place and time,” Nandkumar added.
The RSS chief was not the only non-academic to hoist the flag on last year’s Independence Day. Former president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee VM Sudheeran also reportedly hoisted the Tricolour at a school in Thiruvananthapuram.
Supreme Court lawyer Sandeep Mahapatra remarked, “Nowhere does the Flag Code of India say that only the principal of a school can hoist the tricolour. If this is challenged in a court of law, the circular would not stand scrutiny and is liable to be struck down. It is antithetical to legal and constitutional provisions.”
If Naveen Jindal could, why can’t Mohan Bhagwat?
In 1994, SK Dubey, commissioner of Raigarh, in undivided Madhya Pradesh had ordered the Superintendent of Police to take the national flag down from Jindal’s factory premises, as the former believed that it was against the law. In 1995, Jindal filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, requesting that all Indians and institutions be allowed to hoist the flag in a respectful manner.
“As a student in the US, I had noticed that people over there were free to fly their flag in offices and at homes. They do so with great pride. This evoked in me a greater sense of pride in our tricolour and I decided to fight for my right to fly the flag. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling which has now given this ‘fundamental right’ to Indian citizens, we formed the Flag Foundation of India to instill in the citizens of India, a sense of pride in thetricolour,” Naveen Jindal had told this correspondent after the SC ruling in 2004.
Bhagwat, too, is determined to repeat his earlier action on the 69 th Republic Day on Friday, come what may.
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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2018 20:52:25 IST