Mr. Naveen Jindal's passion for the National flag, the Tiranga, began during his student days at the University of Texas at Dallas, USA, where as President of the Student's Senate, he used to proudly display the Indian National Flag.
After coming back to India in 1992, Naveen continued to display his pride and honour in being a citizen of India by flying the Indian National Flag in a respectful manner at his factory premises in Raigarh in Chhattisgarh (erstwhile Madhya Pradesh). The then Commissioner of Bilaspur objected to it on the ground that as per the Flag Code of India, a private citizen was not permitted to fly the Indian flag except on certain days.
Mr. Jindal sought legal advice from eminent lawyers including Mr Shanti Bhushan. The advice he received was that there existed two clear laws on the subject. Firstly, the flag could not be insulted or disrespected and secondly, it could not be used for commercial purposes. But there is no law which can prohibits ' respectful flying of the National Flag by the citizens.
Mr. Jindal filed a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the Delhi High Court, against the action of the Government officials preventing him from flying the National Flag. The petition was filed on the grounds that there was no law prohibiting the flying of the National Flag by private individuals, the restrain being put only by the Flag Code. This Flag Code contained executive instructions of the Government of India and was not issued under any law. The prohibition imposed by virtue of the Flag Code is an infringement of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution that gives all citizens, the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The view of Union of India to this was that the Central Government is authorized to impose restrictions on the use of National Flag at any public place or building and can regulate the same by the authority vested in it under Section 3 of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950. The Union of India also viewed that the restriction imposed by the Act and orders issued by the Government are constitutionally valid being reasonable restrictions on the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on 22nd September, 1995 allowed the writ petition filed by Naveen Jindal holding that "Any restriction contained in the Flag Code -India relating to the flying of national flag by the citizens cannot be enforced except when contravention of those restriction come within the purview of any law in force." A mandamus was issued to the Respondents (Union of India & others) restraining them from interfering with the right of the Petitioner to fly the national flag on his premises."
The Union of India sometime in January, 1996 filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court challenging the judgment dated 22nd September, 1995 passed by the Delhi High Court. On 7th February, 1996 the Honble
Supreme Court was pleased to grant leave and stay the operation of the impugned judgment. The flag continued to fly as Naveen's lawyer said "it would not be contempt of court since the judgment had only been stayed".
The matter then came up for hearing before the Hon'ble Mr. Justice V.N. Khare and the Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.N. Variava of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. The Hon'ble judges observed that prima facie they see no reason why the citizens cannot express patriotism by displaying the national flag. They also observed that restrictions on flying of national flag only on certain days by private citizens seemed unsustainable.
Subsequently an Inter-Ministerial Committee was constituted by the Union of India on 18th October, 2000, headed by Mr. P.o. Shenoy, Additional Secretary in Ministry of Home Affairs. The committee was to consider whether the citizens should be allowed to freely fly the national flag as an expression of their feelings of patriotism.
Several meetings were held by the Committee where view-points were presented by Naveen also. Dr. P. D. Shenoy submitted the Committee's report to the Government on 12.04.2001.
From November, 2000 to May, 2001 the Government repeatedly sought adjournments before the Supreme Court. Taking a strong view of such delaying tactics, the Hon'ble Supreme Court on 2nd May, 2001 permitted Naveen Jindal to fly the National Flag with respect, dignity and honour.
Union Cabinet accepted Dr. P. D. Shenoy committee report on 15.01.2002 and announced that citizens will be free to fly the National Flag respectfully on all days from 26.01.2002. The Government subsequently issued a new flag code (Flag Code of India 2002) which contained guidelines for flying the National Flag.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court on 23rd January, 2004 dismissed the Civil Appeal No.2920 of 1996 arising out of SLP No. 1888 of 1996 filed by Union of India against the judgment and order dated 22nd September, 1995 of Delhi High Court and held that: