In a significant verdict, the Madras High Court on Monday held that cutting and consuming a cake with an icing of the national flag would not amount to insulting or dishonouring the Tricolour.Justice N Anand Venkatesh set aside an order of a Judicial Magistrate to register a criminal case against certain Government officials and individuals in Coimbatore, who cut a cake with the Tricolour icing, during a Christmas celebration over seven years ago.The cake measured 6 ft. in length and 5 ft in breadth; the icing on it carried a Tricolour with the outline of the Indian map and Ashoka Chakra in the middle. It was cut, distributed and consumed by the special guestsand about 2,500 participants, including 1,000 children.An office-bearer of a fringe Hindu outfit had sought registration of criminal cases against the officials, including the Collector and Deputy Commissioner of Police and individuals who cut and consumed the cake.
The judge observed that patriotism is not determined by a gross physical act. The intention behind theact will be the true test and it is possible that sometimes the very act itself manifests the intention behind it. “The symbolization of national pride is not synonymous with patriotism. Rig Veda asks us to let noble thoughts come to us from every side, which reflects the Indian ethos i.e., tolerance,” the judge said in his order passed on an appeal from the State Government. He was of the view that while nationalism was vital in a democracy, “hyper and surfeit” adherence to it would go against the country’s prosperity and past glory.
The court pointed out that national flags, pinned by citizens to their clothes on Independence and Republic Day, “become a part of any other wastepaper after the participants leave the venue.” Would such an act mean that the participants had insulted the national flag, the judge asked. Or should they be proceeded against under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971?
The judge held that the intention of those who organised the Christmas celebration and cut the cake did not appear to be to insult the flag.
“If persons are allowed to give a broad meaning to the word ‘insult,’ many will become very uncomfortable and hesitant to handle the national flag. The national flag is given during those functions as a symbol of our national pride. Once such a feeling is created in the minds of the participants, the purpose for which it was given or used will be achieved,” he held.