On January 26th, 2002, RSS hoisted the national flag at its headquarters in Nagpur voluntarily for the first time after India’s first Republic day. Prior to that, the only other occasion when the national flag was seen atop the RSS headquarters was in 2001 when it was forcibly hoisted by three activists of Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal. When asked why the RSS did not hoist the national flag for 52 years, supporters have a ready explanation. They claim that RSS did not hoist the national flag because private citizens were not allowed to hoist the national flag up until 2002 when a revised Flag Code was announced by the then Union Govt.

Most of us who grew up watching the flag hoisting ceremony at our schools and colleges during the Independence Day and Republic day functions, find it hard to believe this absurd claim. Was it the flag code that prevented RSS from hoisting the Indian flag? Let us verify the truth behind this claim which has been advanced by prominent social media users close to the BJP, such as Mahesh Vikram Hegde who is the founder of the fake news website Postcard News, Nupur Sharma who goes by the popular handle @UnSubtleDesi and is an editor with OpIndia, and Anshul Saxena who is followed by prominent BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Flag Code 2002

The issue of who can fly the national flag and when one can fly the national flag came under discussion when industrialist Naveen Jindal filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court in February 1995 contesting the restraints placed on him by officials regarding flying the national flag at his Raigarh factory. Up until then, other than on special occasions like January 26th, August 15th and October 2nd, private citizens were not allowed to fly the national flag. On January 15th, 2002, the Union Cabinet accepted the report of the Dr P.D. Shenoy Committee that it had constituted to look into the matter, and announced that citizens will be free to fly the national flag on all days of the year from 26 January 2002.

Flag Code before 2002

The fact that all private citizens were allowed to fly the national flag without any restrictions on at least these special occasions is captured in at least two documents – The then prevalent flag code called ‘Flag Code-India’ and in another letter from the Minister of Home Affairs dated 15-06-1971.

We managed to find the flag code prevalent prior to 2002 in a 1982 Protocol Manual on Punjab Govt website. In the 6 part manual, the fourth PDF file has the Flag Code on page 12 of the PDF file. The relevant section of the Flag code applicable in this case is on Page 14, a clipping of which can be seen below.

Flag Code-India stating that unrestricted access is available on republic day national week, independence day and mahata gandhi's birthday

The above piece of text clearly says that the display of National flag shall be unrestricted on Republic Day, National Week, Independence Day and Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday which essentially means that anyone can fly it. The second letter from Ministry of Home Affairs dated 15-06-1971 also states the same thing.

1971 letter flag can be hoisted by anyone on special ocassions

Both these documents confirm that that flag code that was in place prior to 2002 placed no restrictions on private citizens to hoist the national flag on at least three days of the year. Despite being permitted to hoist the national flag on January 26th, August 15th and October 2nd , RSS chose not to do so for 52 years. This is an embarrassing fact for RSS supporters and therefore it is not surprising that they try to justify this by claiming that it was the Flag Code which prevented the RSS from hoisting the national flag, a claim which is not true.