Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The flag

i often check the wikipedia (on most weekdays anways) about significant events, births and deaths of the day. its a source of some really cool information. here is something about today (june 21):

among other things, today is the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere (summer solstice) and the longest night for those in the southern hemisphere.

but an interesting event that took place on this day in 1989 was the decsion of the US Supreme Court in a case known as Texas v/s Johnson. Greg Johnson had burnt the US flag at the Republican National Convention in Dallas (1984), and had subsequently been convicted for desecrating a venerated object in violation of a Texas statute. The US Supreme Court however, overturned it citing "... Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment", the First Amendment ofcourse referring to the freedom of speech (and expression??) according to the US constitution. the decision did cause a lot of outrage amongst the public, but it has stood the test of time (so far!). there are some laws against misuse though - According to the US flag code,
# No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform"
# The flag "should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper.

what does all this really mean to all of us here? on the face of it, nothing really. but the question that intrigued me was that i am actually quite ignorant about any laws related to all this in india. i tried briefly to look on the web for laws in the indian constitution that prohibit the desecration of the indian national flag or even burning of the same. suffices to say that i didnt find any (i didnt look too hard though, im sure thereis something on the web!). but would we consider that someone burning the indian flag was actually 'expressing himself'? personally i dont think so ... the national flag is a symbol of the nation, and if you dont like the way it is - find some other nation or get parliament to change the law and get one you want ... but till then , the tricolor it is and no one's got the right to mess around with it.

as i write this, i recall that they sometimes show flag burning in movies (in roja, for example). but i also recall someone telling me that they do not actually use a 'real flag' - its a fake flag (i.e. something is inaccurate about it, such as the ashok chakra is missing, or the colors are inaccurate or something) so that they are not really showing the flag burning. which probably means that there are laws in india prohibiting the smae. any info on the same would be quite welcome.

UPDATE - someone (YB) did point me out to the Indian Flag Code which is quite restrictive about what one can get away with as regards the indian flag. certainly no chance of being able to burn it and gettign away by calling it freedom of speech and expression.

1 comment:

Priti said...

I would guess there is a law prohibiting flag burning in India- mainly because there is a law forbidding an Indian citizen displaying an Indian flag!! And I mean, the big cotton jhanda- not the little paper/synthtic ones that kids have. Indian citizens actually aren't allowed to own one- only government buildings have them.It's a far cry from the US where citizens own cloth Star Spangled Banners and display them for the 4th of July. P.S. This pearl of wisdom comes from my aunt who works for the Indian Consulate.