Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971

Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, has provisions aimed at preventing the desecration or insult of national symbols, including the national flag, the Constitution, the national anthem, and the Indian map.

Section 2 – Insults to Indian National Flag and Constitution:

  1. It prohibits burning, mutilating, defacing, defiling, disfiguring, destroying, trampling upon, or any other form of disrespect towards the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India.
  2. The act applies to both spoken and written words, as well as acts.
  3. Offenders can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years, a fine, or both.

Explanation 1:

  • Criticism of the Constitution or the Indian National Flag or any lawful measures to amend the Constitution or alter the flag does not constitute an offense under this section.

Explanation 2:

  • The term “Indian National Flag” encompasses all visible representations, including pictures, paintings, drawings, photographs, or any other means made of any substance or represented on any substance.

Explanation 3:

  • “Public place” refers to any easily accessible place used by the public, including public conveyances.

Explanation 4 – Definition of “disrespect” to the Indian National Flag:

  1. It includes acts of gross affront or indignity towards the flag.
  2. Dipping the flag in salute to any person or thing, except as mandated on specific occasions.
  3. Flying the flag at half-mast without following government instructions.
  4. Draping the flag, except during state funerals or armed forces/paramilitary forces funerals.
  5. Using the flag as a costume or accessory below the waist.
  6. Embroidering, stitching, or printing the flag on items like cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, undergarments, or dress materials.
  7. Putting any inscription on the flag.
  8. Using the flag as a covering or wrapper, except for flower petals during special occasions like Republic Day or Independence Day celebrations.
  9. Using the flag to cover statues, monuments, speaker’s desks, or platforms.
  • Allowing the flag to touch the ground, floor, or trail intentionally.
  • Using the flag as a drape over vehicles, trains, boats, aircraft, or similar objects.
  • Using the flag to cover buildings.
  • Displaying the flag with the saffron color (top color) facing downwards intentionally.

Section 3 – Prevention of singing of National Anthem:

  1. It prohibits the prevention or disturbance of singing the Indian National Anthem during assemblies paying respect to it.
  2. Offenders can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years, a fine, or both.

Section 3A – Enhanced penalty on second and subsequent convictions:

  • If a person is convicted of an offense under Section 2 or Section 3 more than once, they can be punished with imprisonment for up to one year.

These provisions aim to uphold the honor and dignity of national symbols, but their interpretation and enforcement should be balanced to ensure they do not unduly restrict freedom of expression and peaceful dissent.

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