I'm a civilian. An army colonel gave me an army rucksack for a hiking trip I was going for. There are no army symbols or markings on it. Just camouflage pattern. The next day my family told me there were some restrictions on the civilian use of army camouflage attire. Checked online, and it seems to be true. Called up the airlines call center and they said such a rucksack wouldn't be allowed on the plane. There are restrictions in Barbados, Aruba, Caribbean nations and Zimbabwe (perhaps Germany too).

What doesn't convince me about this, is that army camouflage is still being sold on Amazon.

Is it really going to get a civilian in trouble if he wears any kind of Army camouflage for a trip? What about all those people who had been purchasing materials with army camouflage for all these decades?

On a side note: the rucksack was given to me with a lot of heartfelt good wishes from the couple. Wondering if it would be polite to give it back to them.

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    Regarding the comment about Germany: A camouflage pattern on a backpack is not a problem. It is illegal to wear rank and unit insignia one is not entitled to wear.
    – o.m.
    Dec 26, 2016 at 9:54
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    Regarding amazon: That’s a global company. Their local branches will check whether selling objects goes against local laws but just because something is illegal in India doesn’t mean it is in Germany. Or elsewhere. Maybe they perform additional IP checking but I was at least able to find the corresponding entries to titles definitely prohibited here on a foreign amazon.
    – Jan
    Dec 26, 2016 at 11:31
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    @Jan Also it could be legal to sell it even though it's illegal to wear it. E.g. in the British Army it's common for individual soldiers to use items of kit they've purchased themselves (at their own expense) which are better than the standard kit - I don't know if this is allowed in the Indian army, but it would provide a reason for selling to be ok even if wearing isn't (for civilians). Indian press reports say physical stores near army bases can get special dispensation to sell army kit so that would tend to support that idea.
    – A E
    Dec 26, 2016 at 12:22
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    And to further add to the confusion, there are things whose sale is illegal but the possession or consumption of which is not; in Germany, that mainly covers the ‘illegal’ drugs (you are permitted to take them, but not to buy, sell, gift or have them).
    – Jan
    Dec 26, 2016 at 12:29
  • Hi Nav, did you take your rucksack, was it an issue? Oct 9, 2018 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


Common sense suggests that if the law says it's illegal to wear it as a civilian then "but they're available for sale on Amazon!" probably would not be an effective defence in court.

is it really going to get a civilian in trouble if he wears any kind of Army camouflage for a trip?

Hard to know for sure.

It is only the beret and badges that distinguish the real armed forces personnel from someone wearing a fatigue as a fashion-statement therefore making it very difficult to distinguish a real armyman from the fake.

Which is why the Indian Army issued guidelines on Friday requesting civilians not to wear the combat dress of the army and asked shopkeepers not to sell them too.

The guidelines are to be followed across the country. The Army has now labelled the selling of such clothing and equipment “illegal”.

The guidelines not to wear “combat-pattern” dresses extend to private security agencies, police and other central forces too.

The Army has said that wearing such dresses “leads to false alarms”.

Indian Army Has Made It Illegal For Civilians To Wear Army-Style Dress, Topyaps 9 Jan 2016

By "false alarms" I understand them to mean, "if you're in full camo then you might be mistaken for a terrorist and shot".

If it's just a rucksack and the rest of your clothing is very obviously non-military then it's hard to see you really being mistaken for some kind of paramilitary while wearing it, but it's not impossible that a punctilious official might have a problem with it.

The army seems to argue that it's your patriotic duty not to wear camo as a civilian:

The Army appealed and requested the public to adhere to the guidelines in national as well as their own interest.

Avoid wearing 'Army-pattern' dress, Army tells civilians, Times of India 8 Jan 2016

... so that could provide you with a decent reason to return the present without causing offence.

Or you could just keep it but not use it.

Update: commenter @RedBaron (thank you!) adds that this is covered by Section 140 of the Indian Penal Code:

  1. Wearing garb or carrying token used by soldier, sailor or airman.—Whoever, not being a soldier, sailor or airman, in the Military, Naval or Air service of the Government of India, wears any garb or carries any token resembling any garb or token used by such a soldier, sailor or airman with the intention that it may be believed that he is such a soldier, sailor or airman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
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    It might also depend on where in India you are, if you are in an area with therorist action or illegal 'armies' you will be more likely in trouble than when you are in the more peacefull regions.
    – Willeke
    Dec 26, 2016 at 10:13
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    Making clothing "illegal" is not something Army can do on its own as that is the prerogative of the civilian government. I cannot find a link which says civilians cannot wear army pattern dresses. The closest is this item about state of Punjab banning sale of army fatigues and this about clothing being banned in a district in border state of J&K
    – RedBaron
    Dec 26, 2016 at 11:49
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    I stand corrected. Section 140 of Indian Penal Code deals with this - Wearing garb or carrying token used by soldier, sailor or airman. So looks like OP should politely return the rucksack or atleast not use it.
    – RedBaron
    Dec 26, 2016 at 11:55
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    Some people may argue that merely carrying a rucksack without intent to impersonate does not fall under section 140. Maybe this should be migrated to Legal ;)
    – RedBaron
    Dec 26, 2016 at 13:04
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    Thank you for the well researched answers. Now I have no qualms about returning the rucksack. I wrote to the OLX website (an equivalent of eBay) and they say it is under their list of prohibited items and it shouldn't have been advertised there. They've removed the ad now and advised me to return the rucksack to the colonel. The answers here will also be of help to anyone traveling to India. Do not wear military camouflage.
    – Nav
    Dec 26, 2016 at 14:27

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