Karnataka Government: State Flag a Grey Area, Want No Controversy

According to reports, a nine-member committee has been set up to design and provide statutory standing for the flag.

4 min read
 Karnataka is trying to be the second state in the country to have an official state flag, after Jammu and Kashmir.

The Karnataka government, which is under fire for considering a flag for the state, said on Wednesday that the issue of whether a state could have its own flag was a "grey area" as there was no mention of it in any of the Acts in the country. Law Minister TB Jayachandra said the existing Acts referred only to the national flag.

"But whether the state should have a flag or not is a grey area," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Bengaluru.

The Karnataka government has formed a nine-member committee to submit a report on designing a flag for the state and "providing a legal standing for it", an official said yesterday.

The Centre made it clear on 18 July that there is no provision in the Constitution for a separate flag for any state and the tricolour is the only flag for India.

Reacting to this, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the national flag will always be higher and said that the decision to have a state flag did not have any political motive.

We are one nation, one flag. Legally there is no provision either for providing or prohibiting a separate flag for any state.
Spokesperson, Home Ministry

The Congress government in Karnataka has formed a nine-member committee to submit a report on designing a separate flag for the state and providing a legal standing for it, with the CM defending the move by asserting that there is no constitutional provision against it.

If the flag comes into being, Karnataka will be the second state to have its official flag after Jammu and Kashmir, which enjoys a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.

Home ministry officials said Karnataka already has a flag which represents only the "people and not the government". That flag is not used in national ceremonies like Republic Day or Independence Day, but on occasions like state foundation day, an official said.

But the use of that flag was also challenged in courts by some people and a decision on the matter is yet to be taken, the official, who wished not to be quoted, said.


Siddaramaiah Defends Move, Attacks BJP

The unofficial but widely regarded red and yellow ‘Kannada flag’ that is hoisted in every nook and corner of the state in November once every year to commemorate state formation day and used in the form of a scarf by Kannada activists was designed by Veera Senani Ma Ramamurthy in the 1960s.

The Siddaramaiah government's move to form a committee is being considered a departure from the stand taken by the earlier BJP government.

The DV Sadananda Gowda-led BJP government in 2012 had informed the Karnataka High Court that it has not accepted the suggestions to declare the bi-colour Kannada flag as the state's official flag, as having a separate flag would be “against the unity and integrity of the country.”

Asked about the panel by reporters on Tuesday, Siddaramaiah sought to know if there was any provision in the Constitution which prohibits the state from having its own flag. 

“Is there any provision in the Constitution? Have you come across any provision in the Constitution? Did BJP people come across the provision? Then why they are raising?” On taking the step ahead of the state assembly polls, he said, “Election will be in the month of April-May, not now, not tomorrow, not next month.”

Hitting out at the BJP, Siddaramaih said, “Did BJP people say they do not want flag for Karnataka state? Let them make a statement that ‘we do not want flag for Karnataka state’. The BJP people always level such false allegations.”


Past Opposition

Former CM of Karnataka and senior BJP leader Sadananda Gowda has expressed his opposition to Karnataka's move to have a separate flag. But he’s not the only one.

In the year 2011 too, during the tenure of the previous BJP-led government, the government had taken a decision not to have a separate state flag.

The opposition to having a state flag was based on the notion that it would "diminish the importance of the national flag”.

Then Kannada and Culture minister Govind M Karjol was quoted as saying in 2011: "The Flag Code does not allow flags for states. Our national flag is the symbol of integrity and sovereignty of our nation. If states have their separate flags, it could diminish the importance of the national flag. Besides, there are possibilities of it leading to narrow-minded regional feelings.''


Legal Position

Former Advocate-General of Karnataka Ravivarma Kumar was quoted by The Hindu as saying that the Constitution does not prohibit a state from having a separate state flag. Citing SR Bommai vs Union of India (Supreme Court 1994) case, he said:

In Bommai’s case, the Supreme Court has declared that federalism is a basic feature of the Constitution and states are supreme in their sphere. This being the Constitutional position, there is no prohibition in the Constitution for the state to have its own flag.
However, the manner in which the state flag is hoisted should not dishonour the national flag. It has to be always below the national flag. The national flag code specifically authorises use of other flags subject to the regulation by the court. So state flag is not unauthorised.

As long as the state flag was hoisted and kept at a height lower than the national flag, there was no impediment to having a separate state flag, Ravivarma Kumar told The Times of India.

(With inputs from The News Minute and PTI)

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