How we won the right to fly the tricolour

EXCERPT: In his new book, Dr Abhishek Singhvi presents his view “from the trenches” on eight defining legal cases of our times

Dr Abhishek Singhvi | March 5, 2020


#Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi   #Naveen Jindal   #right to fly the tricolour   #From The Trenches  


Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as one of the top lawyers at the Supreme Court, has helped shape the contemporary trends. In his latest work, ‘From the Trenches’ (co-authored with Satyajit Sarna, published by Juggernaut), he revisits eight defining cases of our times, and presents a view, as it were, from the trenches. Here is an excerpt from the book relating to one of them, Naveen Jindal vs the Union of India – the case that won all citizens the right to fly the tricolour.

Flying the flag is an act of patriotism. But it is important to remember that our case was not pegged on patriotism. It is a victory for our democracy that the constitutional basis on which it was decided was not whether an act is or is not patriotic. It is based on the freedom of speech. We found a rooting in a constitutional text and unless you find a rooting in a juristic principle, you are not making good law. If the Supreme Court had said you have a right to fly the flag because it is patriotic to fly the flag, that would be uncharted and leave us without a principle to follow.

Therefore, I am happy that we pegged it and rooted it in Article 19(1)(a), which is a well-known right. Patriotism may be the underlying ethic but the judgement supports also my freedom of expression unrelated to patriotism. It is possible to use that right even in a critical sense, to use it to criticize the state of the nation. One could fly the flag at a demonstration, for example, to point out that soldiers are dying at the border for a poor policy of a government. Whether that is patriotic or not is open to question and there are people who would interpret it either way. But it is one’s right – to the extent, of course, that nobody burns the flag.

One of the things I am most grateful for in the Jindal case is that the Court permitted it to be heard and decided on rights. The Union was not permitted to take it back and fi x the gaps in the Flag Code, and put a soft end to the dispute. Judges who are not decisive prefer controversial disputes to be worked out broadly by consensus. That is simply a way for judges to decide not to decide. My biggest fear was the Court would back off from deciding by saying we agree there is a right, but let the government arrive at some convenient solution.

It came very close to that many times in those two to three years. These things depend largely on the personality of the judge in question. It is natural for judges to want to avoid writing a judgement if the government is telling them the decision will yield unpoliceable consequences.

But this time, Justice Khare, a little uncharacteristically, stood his ground and went on to decide the matter finally, and strongly, in our favour. Equally, even though the government had made it clear that Naveen Jindal would not be prosecuted, I am glad he decided not to withdraw the case, and allow the government to go forward with a modified Flag Code.

Naveen Jindal has invited me every year after that on 26 January, when he holds a formal flag function at his house. He always sends me a flag and also a lapel pin. I have often attended the function. As a consequence of the judgement, a flag movement started, very much encouraged by Jindal.

It started with schools educating children about the flag, then holding functions, passing out small lapel pins which children could wear. The flag movement now has become a larger movement of awareness, awareness of the unity and integrity of India through its diversity, a non-communal, secular symbol.

The flag is our most secular symbol not merely in religious terms, but also, more broadly, where secular means non-affiliated, not casteist, not sect dominated, not race dominated; it is the most secular symbol you can think of. And while this is true for every country, nowhere is it as true as in the world’s most diverse country – India.

What drove Naveen Jindal to fight this long, hard, principled fight? After all, he is an industrialist, a busy person who has plenty of important things to deal with. Why did he fight the government for years over such an abstract principle?

I think maybe it was an eccentricity. Society progresses on the backs of not only sensible people but also eccentrics and ordinary people who may have one overriding obsession. You may be a rational person, but it is the eccentric kink in you which leads to change and progress. Naveen Jindal had an unusual interest in the flag, an exceptional devotion to the cause and he fought for the principle he believed in. It is often this kind of passion, usually irrational, that wins us our rights and freedoms.

Excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

From the Trenches
Abhishek Singhvi with Satyajit Sarna
Juggernaut Books
248 pages
 

Comments

 

Other News

How much time do you spend talking on phone?

How much time do Indians spend talking on phone? It is on average 761 minutes per month, according to a new report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The telecom regulator released its report, titled ‘The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators: July-Septemb

“Developing public health infrastructure key to sustainable healthcare for all”

Renowned cardiologist Dr Ramakanta Panda has said that the pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of existing healthcare systems and it is wrong to draw comparisons with Korea, a country with the population equal to that of a single Indian state. While speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Gove

SC-appointed panel on farm laws holds first meet

The committee of experts appointed by the supreme court to deliberate with the stakeholders on the new farm laws held its first meeting here Tuesday, with one of its members saying that all stakeholders, including individual farmers, will be heard. Hearing a petition on the farm laws enacted

India’s glitch-free vaccination gathers pace

The nationwide vaccination campaign launched Saturday, the largest such exercise in the world, has started setting new benchmarks, with vaccines administered to 2,24,301 beneficiaries in the first two days. “India has vaccinated the highest number of persons on Day1 under its COVID19 v

Maharashtra to spend Rs 2,500 crore to augment, develop power infrastructure

The Maharashtra government has announced a spending of Rs 2,500 crore annually to develop infrastructure of state-owned distribution company Mahavitaran (MSEDCL).   Out of the total amount, Rs 1,500 crore will be spent on energisation of conventional agriculture pumps and Rs 1,000 crore

Launched: Largest vaccination drive in history

India on Saturday began the massive vaccination drive against Covid-19, as prime minister Narendra Modi paid tributes the ‘corona warriors’. “Such a vaccination drive at such a massive scale was never conducted in history. There are over 100 countries having less than 3 cro

Masterminds: Masterclass on World Affair with Sreeram Chaulia





Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter