Six Instances of Patriotism in the Indian Judiciary

Over the years, Indian courts, particularly the higher judiciary, have done their best to preserve the ideals of the freedom struggle. To this end, the court, while deciding cases, have ensured that the great sacrifices made during the freedom struggle are not forgotten the years go by. For example, they have upheld the right of freedom fighters to receive pension, the fundamental right to fly the tricolor and more.

As we celebrate 68th year of independence, here are the six examples of patriotism exhibited by the judiciary while delivering judgments.

1. Narayanan Vs. Union of India

A freedom fighter was refused pension under the Swantantrata Sainik Samman Scheme and approached the Madras High Court. Under the relevant provisions, a freedom fighter had to have been imprisoned for six months during the freedom struggle to avail the scheme benefits. The High Court held that since the appellant underwent imprisonment of only three and a half months, he was not qualified to receive pension.

Moreover, the appellant had lost vision in one eye as a consequence of lathicharge during a hartal. However, this was not construed to be “permanent incapacitation” as was required under Section 3 (e) of the scheme. The Supreme Court subsequently set aside the High Court’s order saying:

The Scheme has been formulated with a view to acknowledge the services rendered to the country by patriotic citizens during the freedom movement and who had suffered at the hands of the British Rulers….to compensate them in some measure  for their sacrifices for the country”.

2. Paramjit Kaur and ors VS. Union of India

A writ petition was filed in the Punjab & Haryana High Court by the descendants of Bhagat Singh, claiming that the movies based on his life weren’t an accurate depiction. The petitioners had reached this conclusion on seeing the promos and not the entire films. The High Court dismissed the petition, stating that while depicting a freedom fighter’s life on screen, the filmmakers were allowed leeway to dramatize events as long as the larger message wasn’t lost.

…..there is nothing such that may put to shade or even slightly diminish the exemplary role played by Shadeed Bhagat Singh in its endeavour of freedom struggle … is not even disputed that supreme sacrifice made by Shadeed-A-Azam Bhagat Singh and the message…runs through and through…..

3. Raghu Nath Pandey and Anr. Vs. Bobby Bedi and Ors

A similar petition was filed in the Delhi High Court in 2006, claiming that the events in the movie based on Mangal Pandey’s life were over-dramatized. The court dismissed the petition, highlighting the importance of cinema which sheds light on lesser known freedom fighters.

Even history students, expect those who studied freedom struggle of India in depth, may not have known in detail about his deeds….Today heroic deeds of Mangal Pandey are known to every person-be it a student of history or not…..It is because of the movie titled Mangal Pandey- The Rising.”

4. Union of India VS. Naveen Jindal

This was the landmark case in which it was held that all the Indians have a fundamental right to freely fly the national flag. Industrialist Naveen Jindal was prevented from flying a national flag at one of his factories, as it was allegedly in contravention of the Flag Code of India. When the matter came to the Supreme Court, it held that nothing could stop an Indian from flying the national flag. Chief Justice of India VN Khare held:-

Since all Indians fought for freedom, it can never be the intention to deny them use of their National Flag-  a symbol of their freedom in entirely…..The pride of a person involved in flying the Flag is the pride to be an Indian and that, thus, in all respects to it must be shown.”

5. Paramjit Singh Gill Vs. State of Punjab

In this case, the petitioner approached the Punjab & Haryana High Court to reclaim his deceased father’s property, which was confiscated by the British during the colonial era. The High Court came heavily on the State Government for failing to provide justice to freedom fighters.

This new struggle for the son of a freedom fighter in the 60th years of our independence, to get back what was owned by his father would not show us all in good light. It does not speak well of our system. Is this the way to show gratitude to those who fought so that we can have our today? Is this a manner in which in which a nation should pay gratitude to those who waged a selfless fight against the alien to get freedom for us?”

6. N. Srinivasan Vs. Govt. of Tamil Nadu

The area situated opposite Chennai’s Presidency College is steeped in nationalist symbolism. It was here that freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, CR Das and others rallied the masses to rise up against the British. In 1908, freedom fighter Subramanian Siva christened the place as “Tilak Ghat”.

In honour of the same, a PIL was filed in the Madras High Court to erect a plaque in remembrance of the freedom struggle. The state government, after initially refusing to do so, later notified the High Court that the request would be fulfilled. Justice Prabha Sridevan was appreciative of the gesture.

We are happy to record that the Government has decided to remember the freedom fighters in this fitting manner…..We record our appreciation of Mr. R. Gandhi, learned senior counsel who repeatedly insisted that history should not be forgotten and it we forget our freedom fighters, then the significance and meaning of the freedom struggle of our country will be lost, and that future generation should always remember with gratitude the sacrifices of these great leaders.’

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