Remembering 23 January 2004: The Day The Flag Really Became Free

| January 23 , 2018 , 11:49 IST

The date January 23, 2004, marks a historic occasion for Indians everywhere, as on this day citizens of the nation won the right to fly the national tri-colour on any day, overruling the earlier prohibition by the Flag Code of India of flying the flag only on specified days.

How Did Indians Win This Right?

In the mid-1990s, industrialist Naveen Jindal fought for the right of private citizens to hoist the flag on all days, apart from the ones earmarked by the Flag Code.

Jindal had displayed the national flag on the premises of his Jindal Strips factory in Raigarh when the then divisional commissioner of Bilaspur objected to the flag stating that according to Flag Code of India, private citizens can only fly the tricolour on certain days and threatened legal action.

Not giving up, Jindal took the matter to Delhi High Court seeking legal aid to fly the national flag, claiming that the Flag Code violated the fundamental right of speech and expression.

The legal petition filed by Jindal in the high court on September 22, 1995, said "Any restriction contained in the Flag Code -India relating to the flying of the national flag by the citizens cannot be enforced except when contravention of those restrictions come within the purview of any law in force."

Centre then moved the Supreme Court on the matter, which said that prima facie they did not see any reason why Indian citizens cannot display the national glad as an expression of their patriotism. SC added that the previous restriction on allowing flag hoisting by citizens only on specific days seemed unsustainable.

Constituted by the Centre, an inter-ministerial committee was set up headed by PD Shenoy to consider whether citizens should be able to express their patriotism by freely flying the national flag.

The Shenoy committee report was accepted by the Union cabinet in January 2002, and citizens were given the right to respectfully fly the national flag on all days. A Flag Code of India 2002 was also issued to this effect.

On the 14th anniversary of the day Indians won the right to fly the tricolour, Naveen Jindal, in an editorial piece for the Indian Express, said that now it's time that India have a 'National Flag Day' to honour the tricolour.