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

Four trends that will shape healthcare post-Covid

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted economies and healthcare systems across the world. Even in the countries like the US that have the highest spend on healthcare and public health emergency preparedness, the impact of coronavirus pandemic on health and livelihoods of people has been tremendous. There are

India to play leading role in global revival: Modi

India would play a leading role in the global revival, prime minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, as he addressed the inaugural session of India Global week via video-conference. He said that this is closely linked with two factors. “First is - Indian talent and second is India`s

BMC spells out numbers to counter Fadnavis’ claims

The BrihanMumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has countered Maharashtra leader of opposition Devendra Fadanvis’s suspicions of fewer Covid-19 tests, as it outlined various measures it has adopted since the first test conducted on February 3, and how it has gradually brought down the number of cases in

Mumbai opts for “most liberal Covid-19 testing” in the world

As part of the four T strategy of trace-test-track-treat, Mumbai – the most affected city in India – has decided to make Covid-19 tests accessible to all. The municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has come out with guidelines allowing all laboratories to conduct RT-PCR (

Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger

In a major development on July 6, the Chinese army started moving back its tents, vehicles as well as troops from locations where disengagement was agreed upon in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. This is a significant milestone in regional geopolitics with India having been successful in isolating the

Hiranandani Group launches ambitious data centre project

With the Covid-19 pandemic pushing more online activity and the capacity usage of data centres going up, India’s largest data centre (DC) building and the biggest tier-IV data centre, Yotta NM1,the  second largest in the world, has been launched in Mumbai. The launch event on Tue



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter