I don’t know if it is legal to burn the American flag in India. Even if it is not currently illegal, the Indian government can certainly pass a law banning the burning of the American flag. It can do so, even though nominally the right to free expression is protected by the Indian constitution, there are so many exceptions to that right that in India, a “constitutional right” is a meaningless concept. There is, for example, an exception for “Friendly relations with foreign countries” under which the Indian government can ban the burning of American flags in India. It is, of course, illegal to burn the Indian flag in India.
But the point is, it is legal to burn the American flag in the United States. It is legal, because their constitution recognizes that right. Because it is written in the constitution, no government, federal, state or city, can pass a law banning flag-burning. They’d have to pass a constitutional amendment just to make flag-burning illegal. In fact, it was tried and it has consistently failed to pass.
Many advantages flow from the fact that you can burn the American flag in America. When a foreign country complains to them and says “Hey, someone from your country insulted our Prophet. Punish them!” their government can say, “Sorry, we cannot. Our constitution does not let us do it. Hell, we cannot even punish someone for insulting our prophet, sorry, our flag. Tricky things these constitutions can be, you know!”
In other countries, when people demand bans on books, they say, “This book should be banned because it hurts our feelings. You are not banning this book only because we are a poor oppressed minority and you are racists. Would you have tolerated it if someone insulted your God like this?” In the US, they cannot say this because the answer to that would be “Yes. We have to. ” In other countries, there is an entire industry devoted to feeling insulted. Politicians compete with one another to whip up frenzies against imagined insults. The demand for police action against those who insult this religion or that gets them votes. In the US too, there are some politicians who try, but the whole thing is pointless because ultimately, the government cannot do anything about it, and the government is obliged to protect the one who insults against physical attacks from those he insulted.
I’ve heard it said that the right to free speech cannot be absolute, that the government should have the power to make exceptions to this right on a case by case basis, on pragmatic grounds. But it seems to me that the right to free speech in the US works only because it is absolute. If we make an exception for one case, people cite it and ask for an exception for themselves too. If the government can restrict free speech by passing laws, politicians will get elected by promising their constituents that they will expand the restriction to cover their concerns too.
Free speech survives only because it is an absolute right. The right to burn the American flag secures all other rights.