National symbols are not mere indirect representatives of a nation’s citizens, of ideas or of feelings but have a greater profound meaning with a broader spectrum of a nation’s values and traditions depicting history that ultimately unified the nation. Being akin to a nation’s history, they are an expression of respect and high consideration, such that, they find mention in the Constitution, benefiting them from legal protection. But one must always remember that these symbols are “broader than an ideological movement” and that too have an impact in history.

Patriotism is an emotion or a sentiment of love for one’s own country and such love cannot be won with force but has to be earned. Article 19 of the Constitution of India provides for “Freedom of Speech and Expression” and if we consider the meaning of expression it can be said to be content and form both; where content is the meaning being conveyed and form is the way in which meaning is being conveyed. Back in school, when the initiatives begin to make each one of us a responsible and law-abiding citizen, we all are instructed to learn and sing the National Anthem and salute to the Indian National Flag in the fullest of our spirits. We stood there like golems with no clue that we were not only instructed to maintain decorum but to instill patriotism in our hearts for our Mother India. Once we move out of school, the true essence of paying respect to the National Symbols is understood but the absence of occasions fails to showcase our patriotism.


The national flag, in any country, like the other sovereign emblems, must be protected from insult and damage for the history, traditions, national pride and identity. Flag is not an object but a relationship. From its inception on August 7, 1906 in the Parsee Bagan Square in Calcutta (now Kolkata), it underwent myriad developments till its adoption by Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947.

It is a horizontally tricolour flag with Saffron (or kesari) at the top representing strength and courage of the country, White colour in the middle along with Ashok Chakra representing  peace and truth respectively and Dark Greenin the bottom representing  the fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land. In the centre of white strip is a navy-blue wheel (or Chakra) having 24 spokes adopted from the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka.

National Anthem can be defined as a psychological dynamo which consistently has achieved its goal of binding the country to rise to their feet. It is generally a poetry or a song for the glorification of the country, which is technically a hymn. Often it is seen that the countries which were formerly under the British rule and succeeded to get independence have adopted National Anthems in order to glorify their freedom struggle.

In short, we can say that National Anthems symbolize unity and integrity and are songs which are celebratory in nature. The National Anthem of our country, India, is “JANA GANA MANA” which was the composition of the great poet, and the first ever Asian to receive a Nobel Prize, Rabindranath Tagore. It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on 24th January 1950. The anthem has always acted as a catalyst to arouse a filial affection for the country, produce social cohesion among the citizens and transcend and redefine individual identity by giving people a sense of higher purpose.


The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 is an Act of the Parliament of India which prohibits the desecration of or insult to the country’s national symbols, including the National Flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem and map of India including contempt of Indian constitution.

Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 states the provision for Insults to Indian National Flag and Constitution of India.

Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 states the provision for the insults to the National Anthem.


Everyone is taught right from childhood to respect the National Flag. The feelings of patriotism and devotion to a country are deep-seated in the minds of individuals right from the time they are in school. The national flag of India represents the nation as an unit. Indians have fought for many years to attain this independence that we enjoy today.

The National Flag not just represents the freedom we enjoy but also the effort of our great leaders who struggled to achieve this freedom. After several centuries of foreign rule by the Mughals, the British and the Portuguese, finally we have achieved freedom and this freedom is represented by our tricolour. India is a very different nation. It is unique because it is an accumulation of many diverse ethnic groups, castes, cultures, races, and religions.


There is a certain flag code which clearly shows the general descriptions of the flag and about the proper rules and guidance which are to be followed for giving proper respect to our national pride. The Flag Code of India, 2002 is in effect from January 26, 2002.

The display of National Flag is governed by the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. The Flag Code of India, 2002 is an attempt to bring together all such laws, conventions, practices and instructions for the guidance and benefit of all concerned. Definite rules are mentioned in the Flag Code.

All individuals need to know the flag code and should not insult our National Flag willingly or unwillingly. Not only during national days like Independence Day or Republic day, people should respect their pride throughout the year.


There are various decisions and rules on National Anthem derived through various Judicial Pronouncements in the last three decades by High Courts and Supreme Court of India.

Mainly, the following points have emerged—

  • Right of Silence at the time of singing of the Indian National Anthem,
  • Commercial use of National Anthem, Can National Anthem be enlarged, rewritten or modified?,
  • Duty bound to show respect to National Anthem and National Anthem in Court Room.

There are various notable cases which resulted to such provisions. The case Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala pointed out the right of silence at the time of singing the national anthem.

The case Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors depicted the commercial use of the national anthem. Duty bound to show respect to National Anthem finds place in the very case Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India (UOI) decided on 30.11.2016.

The fact whether national anthem can be enlarged, rewritten, or modified came out as a result of the case Sanjeev Bhatnagar v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors.

How national anthem should be treated in court rooms, this provision can be found in the case Suresh Kumar Gupta v. State of U.P. and Ors. The true source of right is duty.

The Chapter of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution provides obligation to the country and community. The Constitution of India casts a communitarian values in the language of duty on every citizen to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institution and national anthem.

Reason of insertion of Fundamental duties in Constitution part –IV A to remind us a time has come that, we the people of India, must realize that we live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, other ideals and institution which is the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality. Whatever be the various provisions that are emerging from time to time as a result of various cases, people must not forget about their rights towards the national heritage.


Nowadays in present cases we can notice people using national symbols as an active weapon for protest activities. Some are holding the flag upside down; some others are using it as a part of their clothes; this is nothing but an insult to our country. The Modi government introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019 (CAA).

The country noticed a huge protest against the CAA. A video of protesters singing the national anthem at Delhi’s Jama Masjid as part of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests went viral and became an instant talking point. The use of national symbol was a mindful strategy used by the protesters. Many people are in favour of this type of protest; some others are against it. Muslims were fighting for, and displaying, their faith in the symbols of a republic that is failing them. This stands in sharp contrast with the decades-long rejection of the national flag and parts of the Constitution by the RSS. The public, who rejected the Indian pride long ago; suddenly showing great patriotism by using the national symbols during protest as their citizenship is now in question. Muslims were actively employing the national symbols and the Constitution just because it is Muslims who the CAA seeks to exclude. If the Muslims can be bold enough to claim their citizenship in the country, they should not use the national symbols only during protest to show how patriotic they are. They should show respect all time. That’s what real patriotism means.

There was a law that said it is mandatory to play the national anthem in every movie theatre before the casting of film. This order was challenged by a film club in Kerala. The film club has argued that forcing cinemas to play national anthem and claiming that people to stand while it is being played ‘infringes fundamental right’ and talked about the false equivalence between an  ‘ outward show of respect’ and an ‘actual sentiment of respect’. How can there be a problem in playing the Anthem and just standing for 52 seconds? Are the people in the theatres so excited and eager to watch the movie that they can’t even respect their National Anthem? People proudly say that patriotism and love for the nation is in the heart. So, why don’t they express it when they get the opportunity?

Those who opposed singing National Anthem in theatres and gave every possible argument against it, are today not only singing National Anthem on roads but are also flaunting it in every possible way! Is that what nationalism means? I am not arguing anything about CAA as it is not my present topic of discussion. Further, the mentioned protests using the national symbol as a part of CAA protest was just mere use of example; I’m neither insulting the Hindus nor the Muslims.

A large gathering and activity was noticed in Mumbai to protest the violence in JNU campus where a group of armed hooligans attacked the campus. The protesters carried the National Flag in their hand. The Flag had nothing relation at that point. So, why did they make the attempt to carry the flag? According to me, most of them adopt this as a ‘defence mechanism’ to show that though they are protesting against the certain thing, they are equally showing concern for their country.  Whether they like to admit it or not, there is, indeed an unstated pressure to “prove” one’s nationalistic credentials at all times. The National Flag, they hope, might serve as a “defence” that their nationalistic credentials ought not to be questioned.

In their belief, waving the National Flag acts as a sort of insurance against being called anti-national. By waving the National Flag during protests, they wish to convey a message that even as they are protesting, they are still very much loyal Indian citizens. They think that this mechanism might save them from getting the epithet of anti-nationalism. But what they actually do, is a great disrespect towards their country. There is a great difference between waving flags during nationalistic events and during protests.

People do wave national flags during joyous occasions, such as during Independence Day, Republic Day, in the commemoration of wars and war heroes, and even during cricket matches. However, there is no comparison of these occasions with protest actions. The reason, people wave flag during cricket matches is to support and cheer for the country. Here the idea is being Indian citizens we are cheering for India must win. In such case, the idea of ‘India versus some other country’ is invoked. The idea is not such in case of protest activities. In case of protest activities people use the National Flag to protest against something which also pertains very much to India. So, in this case the idea becomes ‘India versus India’. This is certainly not any kind of display of nationalism. Thus, there is no logical reason to wave the National Flag on such occasions. It does not add any value to such protests.

There are several instances which shows the disrespect towards our National Flag.

  • In August 2012 an F.I.R. was lodged against Bollywood Actor, Shahrukh Khan by Lok Janshakti Party for insulting the tricolour.
  • It was followed by in July 2017 Akshay Kumar (Bollywood Actor) holding the National Flag upside down while cheering for Women’s Cricket World Cup final at the Lord’s Stadium, London.
  • On Independence Day in 2017 itself Bollywood Actress Priyanka Chopra was highly criticized for her boomerang video on posted on Instagram, for her choice of wardrobe, swirling a tricolour scarf.
  • Canadian unit of Amazon was objected when found selling distorted Indian flag on doormats and wall stickers and was made to tender unconditional apology for insulting Indian National Flag when it was found that T-shirts, shoes etc. on Amazon U.S. unit have our flag print.
  • Sachin Tendulkar cutting cake resembling Indian National Flag, draping death bodies in private funeral, Kerala-based jewellery brand ‘Joylukkas’ publishing Indian Flag without its Ashok Chakra and many more instances show that how the notable personalities also fail to respect their national pride.


We must build our Paradise here on this green earth (green). If we are to succeed in this enterprise, we must be guided by truth (white), practice virtue (wheel), adopt the method of self-control and renunciation (saffron). Maurice Agulhon has noted, “to have an impact in history it is not sufficient that a colour or an emblem be chosen only once, it still needs to be adopted by the people, perceived, received, in short, that it succeeds”.

Patriotism is love and devotion to one’s country; the spirit that originates in the love for country. It prompts to obedience to its laws, to the support and defence of its existence, rights, and institutions and to the promotion of its welfare. Patriotism is a sentiment and cannot be forced or imposed on a person by curbing his individual liberty of speech and expression. It has always been said that “Respect cannot be won with force but has to be earned.”

National symbols must be given proper respect. National symbols are useful in transcending and redefining individual identity, by giving people a sense of higher purpose. National symbols are designed carefully to depict the core values and heritage of the nation, and respect for the symbols is a form of understanding and internalizing those values. When we respect the flag or the anthem, we are not only respecting a nation; rather, we are respecting all the people who have made the nation possible and work to keep the nation healthy. We should remember the sacrifices that have gone into making the nation and the daily sacrifices by countless people to keep it so. National symbols provide us a way to feel strong that we are a part of the nation.

To conclude about the topic of discussion “the duty to respect the National Flag and National Anthem versus using these symbols as a sign of protest”, I would say that it must be the primary duty of every citizen of India to give proper respect to the symbols of our national pride-be it the National Flag or the Anthem; rather than using those as a sign of protest in order to display fake patriotism.








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