Over the past two weeks, social media revived a two-year old controversy about how former Vice President Hamid Ansari had allegedly disrespected the national anthem by not saluting the tricolour on the occasion of Republic Day in 2015.
A large section of Twitter users, who were upset with Ansari’s comments in his last interview before leaving the office of India’s vice-president, dredged up a picture from 2015 questioning the former VEEP’s patriotism.
For 10yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy? Agenda kya hai? https://t.co/Z8pzWddTG0
— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) August 9, 2017
— hpapnai🇮🇳 (@papnaih) August 10, 2017
In retaliation a few people on social media shared a 2016 image of when former French President Francois Hollande visited India during the Republic Day celebrations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not salute while the anthem was played.
But an understanding of the protocol about the national anthem shows why there was never any controversy in either of these pictures.
Though it can be argued that in 2015 Primer Minister Narendra Modi and then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were not required to reciprocate the national salute given to the command “Rashtriya Salute-Salami Shastr” in the presence of Pranab Mukherjee, then President of India who was also the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces.
The controversy had been quelled in 2015 when Hamid Ansari’s office issued a clarification stating his actions were in adherence to protocol. See The Hindu’s 2015 story.
Gurdeep Singh Sappal, officer on special duty to the Vice-President. tweeted: “When National anthem is played, Principal Dignitary & persons in uniform take salute. Those in civil dress stand in attention.” He explained that at the Republic Day parade, the President of India, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, takes the salute and by protocol, the Vice-President is required to stand in attention.” – The Hindu
“When the Vice-President is the Principal Dignitary, he salutes during National Anthem, wearing a head gear,” Mr. Sappal said in his tweet. When the National Anthem is played, those in civil dress stand in attention and as per the Flag Code of India, all persons present should face the flag and stand in attention.”
This is supported in the Orders Relating To The National Anthem Of India and The Flag Code of India, 2002.
The national anthem, national flag, the Constitution and national symbols are protected by the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
If we skip back to orders relating to the national anthem, a document available on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ website, it details orders relating to the length and duration of the anthem along with orders that are to be followed during civil and military ceremonies. (Click here to view the entire document.)
Under orders relating to when the full version of the anthem should be played on civil and military investitures, it states –
“When National Salute (which means the Command “Rashtriya Salute – Salami Shastr” to the accompaniment of the National Anthem is given on ceremonial occasions to the President or to the Governor/Lieutenant Governor within their respective States/Union Territories”
The Flag Code of India, 2002
The Flag Code of India, 2002 is a compilation of the laws, conventions, instructions and guidance related to the display of the national flag. (Click here to view the entire Code)
Section VI of the code says that during a ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade, all persons should face the flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute.
“During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the Flag or when the Flag is passing in a parade or in a review, all persons present should face the Flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute.”
Therefore what all of this means is that only in the absence of the president, the vice president would be considered the principal dignitary and take the national salute.
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