Wary people changed their display pictures on WhatsApp and other social sites after a message went viral that using national flag as entity or group symbol, icon or in any form of title representation is 'illegal' under Prevention of Insults of National Flag Act 1971.
However, the legal fraternity, lawyers of Indore high court and the experts of Constitution claimed that this sort of message is misleading.
The message, which is viral on Facebook, claims that "Indian Constitution doesn’t allow us to make Indian tricolour as profile picture or stitch or paste it anywhere. Indian tricolour should only be unfurled freely in air and as an Indian it is our fundamental duty to give all due respect to the tricolour as per Provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (No.12 of 1950) and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 (No. 69 of 1971)."
Amar Upadhyay, a student of class 9 in Indore, who is the administrator of two WhatsApp accounts, said that he got this message on Monday and most of his friends suggested him to remove the national flag from the display. "I removed it because I was unaware of the law and feared to be booked. No one told me about Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971," he said.
Raghvendra Singh Raghuvanshi, an advocate of Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court said, "Legally, there should be no restriction on Indian citizens who wished to express their patriotism by displaying the national flag with its dignity. The Flag Code of India, 2002 permits unrestricted display of the tricolour, consistent with the honour and dignity of the flag. The message on social media is misleading. There is no prohibition on displaying the tricolour as a means of respect."
Anshu Mishra, a lawyer practicing at Supreme Court said that, "The Flag Code, India, 1950 was amended after the historic decision of the Union Cabinet. The Union government approved the recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee headed by Dr PD Shenoy and removed the restrictions on the use of the national flag by all Indian citizens after January 26, 2002. The code, written in 2002, was merged with acts: Provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 which came into effect from January 26, 2002 as Flag Code of India, 2002."
"Now since nothing specific is mentioned over the usage and display of National Flag in its digital form, or over digital media, much is left for the interpretation. Interpretation in such a way, that the basic structure of the Flag Code of India, 2002 remains intact. However, any Indian citizen can use the national flag as long as it is used with respect, honour, where it is not used as an insult to the country, where there is no lettering on the flag, where it is not intentionally saffron side down, where it is not damaged or dishevelled," he said.