In 1971, our legislation enacted the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act that protects insult to national anthem, national flag and the constitution. Violators can be fined and imprisoned for up to three years. In my view, this act is totally unnecessary. Common sensibility around respect for national symbols apart, in a free society, it is no business of the government to arrest and fine people on violation of such code of conduct. Take for example the recent case of Narayana Murthy making comments on the National Anthem. Irrespective of however bad taste his comments were in, the protest should be limited to expression of displeasure by the government and concerned citizens. A country and its symbols earn respect of the people by what they mean to them, and not by what is forced upon them. This law advocating authoritarian enforcement of symbolic respect is more suited to communist, religion-based and other closed societies, and not to an India that aspires to be a model open and diverse society that manages difference of opinion in a civil way.
The recent furore over government asking about detailed menstrual history from some of its female employees on an annual appraisal form has brought forward some serious issues about how the government of our beloved country functions. It has no commonsense of what affects job performance and what doesn’t, no regard for privacy of a citizen, and no intention of simplifying governance.