History of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

Young Swiss businessman, Jean Henry Dunant was appalled by the condition of the wounded soldiers, he happened to see in the battle field of Solferino, Italy in 1859 during the Franco – Austrian war. He arranged relief services with the help of the local community immediately. He wrote the book ‘Memory of Solferino’ suggesting that a neutral organization be established to aid the wounded soldiers in times of war. Just a year after the release of this book, an international conference was convened in Geneva to consider the suggestions of Henry Dunant and thus the Red Cross Movement was born. International Red Cross Movement was established by Geneva Convention of 1864. The name and the emblem of the movement are derived from the reversal of the theme and colours of the Swiss national flag, to honor the country in which Red Cross was found.

Origin of Indian Red Cross Society

During the first world war in 1914, India had no organization for relief services to the affected soldiers, except a branch of the St. John Ambulance Association and by a Joint Committee of the British Red Cross. Later, a branch of the same Committee was started to undertake the much needed relief services in collaboration with the St. John Ambulance Association in aid of the soldiers as well as civilian sufferers of the horrors of that great war. A bill to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society, Independent of the British Red Cross, was introduced in the Indian Legislative Council on 3rd March 1920 by Sir Claude Hill, member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council who was also Chairman of the Joint war Committee in India . The Bill was passed on 17th March 1920 and became Act XV of 1920 with the assent of the Governor General on the 20th March 1920.

On 7th June 1920, fifty members were formally nominated to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society and the first Managing Body was elected of them with Sir Malcolm Hailey as Chairman.

Indian Red Cross Society is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Relations between the IRCS and the India Delegation of the Federation are strong.

Indian Red Cross Society has partnership with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, St.John Ambulance, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC ), Multinational firms. Individuals and others in supporting IRCS activities. It also coordinates with Indian Government and other agencies (UNDP, WHO etc.).

Red Cross Emblem

Red Cross on a white background is the Emblem of Red Cross, recognized in 1864 as the distinctive sign for medical relief teams on the battle field.
In the Russo-Turkish war the Ottoman empire used a Red Crescent in place of the Red Cross. Egypt too opted for the Red Crescent while Persia chose a Red Lion on a white background. These symbols were written and accepted into the 1929 Geneva Conventions. The IRCS adopted RED CROSS as its emblem.
The National Society make use of the emblem as an indicative device in peacetime and during armed conflicts within the limits stipulated in national legislation, the regulations and its statutes only for activities consistent with the principles set out by International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
During the General Assembly and the council of Delegates in November 2005 at Geneva, Red Crystal has been adopted as another emblem for the Red Cross Red Crescent movement.

Who are the Authorized users

  • The Military Medical Services, their personnel, units, installations and means of transport
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (The Federation)
  • National Societies
  • First Aid Centres that offer totally free medical assistance and are authorized by their national society

What Constitutes misuse of the Emblem

Following acts are considered as misuse of emblem.
  • Use of the emblem by those who are not authorized by the laws
  • Improper use of the Emblem by those who are authorized to use it.
  • Imitation of Red Cross Emblem by using a symbol similar to it.


What is the Indian National Law regulating the use of the emblem

The Indian law regulating the use of the emblem is called the Geneva Conventions Act. The Parliament of India made this law in 1960. Chapter IV of this Act deals with the abuse of the Red Cross Emblem. Section 12 read with Section 13 of this chapter makes unauthorized use of the Red Cross Emblem or its imitation a punishable offence.

What is the punishment for such abuse of the emblem in India

The punishment is a fine of Rs.500/-, besides the provision for forfeiture of the goods or vehicles

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