PM accused of flouting flag code

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked up a controversy after he autographed the Indian flag in New York to be gifted to President Barack Obama, evoking sharp reaction from the Opposition as well as the social media, a senior lawyer said signing on the national flag was a punishable offence but the law would not apply on foreign soil.

Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay R. Hegde said, “Any writing [on the national flag] is definitely a violation of the flag code. Mere violation of the flag code is not an offence. The Indian state cannot exercise jurisdiction over an event that has occurred on foreign soil. If the perpetrator comes back to India and in case there is a criminal complaint, a court can choose to take cognisance of the act. The perpetrator can always take the plea that the law does not apply in foreign land.”

According to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act, 2005, “Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Reacting to the controversy, the Congress said, “However high you may be, the national flag is above you, you should understand this.”

Mr. Modi signed the tricolour for chef Vikas Khanna who said he would gift it to the U.S. President. Mr. Khanna had prepared the menu for Mr. Modi’s dinner with Fortune 500 CEOs. The chef displayed the signed tricolour to the media. However, the flag was later taken away by officials after the controversy erupted to check whether there was any violation of the flag code.

Asked whether the Prime Minister’s action of signing on the national flag was an offence under IPC, Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “We are not petty like the BJP. We respect the office of the Prime Minister.”

At the same time, he said the Prime Minister must look within and take corrective action “as respect for the national flag is the responsibility of 125 crore people, more so of the Prime Minister.”

Late in the evening, the Director General of the Press Information Bureau, Frank Noronha, tweeted that the Prime Minister did not sign on the national flag. “The memento signed by PM @narendramodi was not Tri Colour,” the tweet said.

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