By LE Desk

Chennai, March 22: The Madras high court on Monday said that “hyper and surfeit” nationalism “goes against the prosperity of our nation” while ruling that cutting a cake in the form of the Indian map in tricolour and eating it doesn’t amount to an offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh quashed a magistrate’s direction to the Coimbatore Police to register a case against those who cut a cake like that and said that “symbolisation of national pride is not synonymous with patriotism, just like how cutting a cake is not unpatriotic,” the Hindustan Times reported.

On December 25, 2013, a large cake iced with a tricoloured outline of India’s map with the Ashoka Chakra in the centre was cut, distributed and consumed by more than 2,500 people, including 1,000 children, in Coimbatore district. According to the complainant D Senthilkumar, the celebrations were also attended by the Coimbatore district collector, deputy police commissioner, various religious leaders and members of several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The complainant’s grievance was that the representation of the Indian flag on the cake and the cutting of the same amounted to an offence under Section 2 of The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.

“Patriotism is not determined by a gross physical act. The intention behind the act will be the true test,” the court observed. The justice said how the participants felt as they left the function must be considered. “Will they be feeling great pride in belonging to this great nation, or would the pride of India have come down on the mere cutting of a cake during the celebration? Without any hesitation, this court can hold that the participants would have felt only the former,” the court said.

The judge compared the cake-cutting to people wearing the flag and discarding it after Independence Day or Republic Day celebration. “If persons are allowed to give such broad meaning to the word ‘insult’, many will become very uncomfortable and hesitant to handle the national flag,” the court observed.

The court drew from the Rig Veda on the Indian ethos of tolerance and recalled Rabindranath Tagore’s remarks that, “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.” 

To underscore its judgement,, the court cited late jurist NA Palkhivala and American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and said that “a patriot is not one who only raises the flag, symbolises his national pride and wears it on his sleeve, but also, a person who bats for good governance.”

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