Tricolour fluttering on top of T2 at midnight creates a flutter

Jan 12, 2014, 11:03 IST | Team SMD

A spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Pvt Limited (MIAL), which operates the new terminal, says the firm has requisite permission to fly the flag post sunset. Legal and political experts, including Additional Solicitor General of India, stand divided on the matter

The national tricolour, fluttering in the breeze on top of the newly inaugurated Terminal 2 in Mumbai well after 10 pm on Friday and Saturday has created more than a flutter.

The national flag is seen flying from a 69-feet-high flagpole near the entry point to the newly inaugurated Terminal 2 on Friday evening. It remained hoisted last night, too. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

While the Flag Code of India, 2002, states that the national flag can only remain hoisted between sunrise and sunset, officials of the Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) said they have special permission from the Union Home Ministry to fly the flag for 24 hours, as long as the flag is “properly illuminated at all times.

” When Sunday Mid Day contacted senior political leaders and legal eagles to get clarity on the matter, they gave a split verdict. While some of them opined that the Tricolour would have to be brought down at sunset, others said private firms had the right to keep the flag up through day and night, under certain circumstances.

The tricolour is seen atop the newly-inaugurated Terminal 2 of the international airport late on Saturday evening. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

The controversy is centered around the national flag flying from a 69-feet high flagpole near the entry point to the newly inaugurated T2. The airport terminal building was inaugurated by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday evening. But hours after he left Mumbai, the tricolour continued to fly high outside
the terminal.

According to officials at MIAL, which operates the T2, the flag will remain hoisted through the day and night and that they have the required permission for this. When contacted, Veena Chiplunkar, a spokesperson for MIAL, said the private infrastructure firm has required permission to hoist the flag even at night. “The place where the flag is hoisted is properly lit up and we havepermission to hoist the flag through the night forever.”

However, when asked if there was a rule that specified what constituted “proper illumination” Chiplunkar pleaded ignorance butreiterated that MIAL had obtained even police permission for the same. When contacted, an officer at the Sahar police stationsaid, “They presented a letter from Shyamala Mohan, Director, government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs (vigilance and administration) that allows MIAL to hoist the flag for 24 hours.”

The letter addressed to the CEO of MIAL states, that the ministry has no objection to the proposal of the Mumbai International Airport Private Limited (MIAL) to install a 69-feet flagpole for flying the national flag during day and night at the integrated terminal of MIAL subject to the following stipulations:

1. Adequate arrangements are made for proper illumination of flag at night with back up, in case of power failures.
2. Immediate replacement of the flag is made as soon as it gets damaged due to vagaries of weather.

Legal eagles, politicians divided
IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh, told Sunday Mid Day, “It’s a historical protocol that the flag goes down with sunset and goes up with sunrise and there’s no provision that artificial lights can be used as a reason for not bringing the flag down after sunset. Everyone can use halogen lights to keep the flag hoisted then! It’s an insult to the national flag to keep it hoisted at night.”

Additional Solicitor General of India, Indira Jaisingh, agreed in part when she said, “Generally the flag is brought down after sunset as a mark of respect. However, it will be difficult for me to comment on how the ministry has given this special permission and under what guidelines.”

Guardian Minister for Mumbai Suburbs, Arif Naseem Khan, said, “Generally the flag is brought down after sunset. It is a serious matter if the flag is not taken down after sunset. I will look into the permissions you refer to.”

State Protocol Minister, Suresh Shetty, said, “In government offices we have to bring down the flag after sunset. However, to the best of my knowledge the flag code of India doesn’t state thatthe same rules apply for private institutions and the general public.”

When Shyamala Mohan was contacted at her residence late on Saturday evening, a family member who answered the call said she was unwell and could not attend to phone calls.

Flag Code of India, 2002
A member of public, a private organisation or an educational institution may hoist/display the national flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise, consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag. Where the flag is displayed in the open, it should, as far as possible, be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of weather conditions. 

I was present during the official inauguration of the swanky newTerminal 2 by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

The PM left by 6.15 pm but most of us journalists remained inside for several minutes thereafter, speaking to airport officials and senior government functionaries.

The tricolour fluttering at the T2 terminal late on Friday evening. Pic/Sapna Desai

After filing my copy for the next day’s edition of my newspaper,I left the new T2 terminal to head home. But as I came out I suddenly saw what looked from a distance like our national flag, flying high near the main entrance of the terminal. It was 9.45 pm, so I was naturally surprised to see the national flag flying full mast so late in the evening.

I immediately headed there and was shocked to see that it was indeed the Indian tricolour, still hoisted, and not pulled down in keeping with protocol. I tried getting in touch with the organisers of the event to tell them about the same as our national flag is not suppose to remain hoisted after sunset but they all were busy looking after the guests.

I clicked several photographs of the fluttering tricolour on my mobile phone. No one stopped me nor did it strike any one of the officials walking around nearby, that something was amiss. 

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