February 09, 2018
12 months

There is a growing demand for a separate state flags in India. In this context, should Indian states be allowed to have their own flags? Comment (200 words)

Refer – The Hindu

Enrich the answer from other sources, if the question demands.

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IAS Parliament 12 months


·         In 1970, the state of Tamilnadu demanded a separate state flag after being newly christened.

·         A separate state flag was one of the 33 demands that put forth by NSCN-IM in the Naga peace accord with the Centre.

·         Later, in 2017, Karnataka government has set up a nine-member panel to study legal provisions of having a state flag.

Constitutional Angle

·         Article 51A ordains that every citizen shall abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag, and the national anthem.

·         There is no other provision regulating hoisting of flags and it is very clear that there is no prohibition under the Constitution to hoist any flag other than the national flag.

Legislative angle

·         Parliament has framed legislation regulating the hoisting of the national flag.

a)     Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

b)     Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.

·         Under the both Acts, there are no prohibitions against any State hoisting its own flag.

Flag code

·         Even the Flag Code of India, 2002 does not impose prohibitions on a State flag.

·         The Code expressly authorises the flying of other flags under the condition that they should not be hoisted from the same masthead as the national flag or placed higher than it.

·         By implication, the Code provides space for a State flag as long as it does not offend the dignity and honour of the national flag.

Supreme Court’s precedent

·         In S.R. Bommai v/s Union of India (Supreme Court 1994) case, the Supreme Court declared that there is no prohibition in the Constitution for the state to have its own flag.

·         However, the manner in which the state flag is hoisted should not dishonour the national flag. It has to be always below the national flag.

For arguments

·         Promoting cultures - In India, State boundaries are demarcated on the basis of linguistic homogeneity.

·         It is, therefore, natural for them to have symbols to recognise, protect and promote their own languages and cultures. A flag, serves this purpose better.

·         Strengthen federal structure - A separate flag for each State would strengthen the federal structure and serve as a symbol for a much more specific identity.

·         Democratic right – It is the democratic right of each state to assert its identity through a separate name, emblem and flag.

·         Enhance Nationalism – The idea of nationalism requires individuals to look beyond their immediate self-interest to the interest of the nation.

·         And any effort to look beyond their self-interest is a stepping stone to thinking about the nation.

·         A flag for her state is then a step towards building nationalism, not one away from it.

Against arguments

·         Subregionalism – It would likely lead to a demand for subregionalism in most States.

·         This would weaken the idea of fraternity, which is enshrined in the Constitution and lies at the heart of the idea of citizenship.

·         Union of States - Despite being a federal republic, India was conceived of as a union of States and not as a federation.

·         Therefore, these federal units cannot aspire to have distinct political symbols that compete with national political symbols.

·         Electoral politics - The demand to have a separate flag for any State is based on the logic of electoral incentives rather than a principled and well-considered argument.