Kerala High Court Asks Petitioner

The Kerala High Court on Monday questioned the credibility of the plea challenging the photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi being affixed on the vaccination certificates issued to citizens upon being vaccinated against Covid-19.

When the matter came up for hearing, Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan observed:

“He is our Prime Minister, not the Prime Minister of any other country. He came to power through our mandate. Merely because you have political differences, you cannot challenge this…Why are you ashamed of our PM? 100 crore people don’t seem to have an issue with this so why do you? Everyone has different political opinions, but he is still our prime minister. You are wasting judicial time.”

The petitioner pointed out that the vaccination certificates issued by other countries did not carry the photo of their respective prime ministers. To this the Court responded:

“They may not proud of their Prime Minister, but we are proud of ours. You should be proud that your vaccination certificate carries the photograph of your PM.”

The petitioner’s counsel replied, “Whether one should be proud or not is a personal choice.”

The Court also noted that the petitioner was the State-level master coach of the Jawaharlal Nehru Leadership Institute of New Delhi and remarked:

You work at an Institute named after a Prime Minister. Why don’t you ask the university to take that down as well?”

Advocate Ajit Joy appearing for the petitioner argued that a vaccination certificate was his private space and he has certain rights over it. He argued that since the petitioner had paid for his vaccination, the State has no right to claim the credit by inserting a photograph of the Prime Minister in the certificate issued to him.

He also pointed out according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for campaigns using public money in Common Cause v. Union of India, no individual can be credited for the launch of an initiative or be celebrated for achievements of a certain policy of the State on government expense. This includes the Prime Minister, he argued.

The counsel raised the following contentions:

  • No public purpose or utility is served by the PM’s photograph on the vaccination certificate.
  • The certificate is the private space of an individual with one’s personal details, not a place for public campaigning.
  • The recipient of the certificate is a captive audience to the message and the photograph on his vaccination certificate.
  • The display of such photographs can influence the mind of a voter.

The respondents attacked the very maintainability of the petition, alleging that there were no constitutional right violations in the first place. They also accused the PIL to be a ‘publicity interest litigation’ with no merits whatsoever.

However, despite its discourgament, the Court stated that it will go through the pleadings in detail with an open mind and decide if it has any merits before dismissing it.

The petitioner is a senior citizen of India and an RTI activist. He received a paid COVID-19 vaccination from a private hospital. Soon he received his certificate as proof for the vaccination, which bore the photograph of the Prime Minister of India along with a message.

Aggrieved by the same, he moved the Court alleging several Fundamental Right violations.

Accordingly, the petitioner sought a declaration that the photograph of the Prime Minister on the COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate of the petitioner is a violation of his fundamental rights.

Further, the petitioner has prayed that he may be issued with a Covid-19 vaccination certificate without the Prime Minister’s photograph affixed on it along with access to the COWIN platform, to generate such a certificate when needed.

During one of the previous hearings of the case, the Court had discouraged the petition citing that it had larger implications. Nevertheless, the plea was admitted and notice was issued to all the respondents in the matter.

Case Title: Peter Myaliparampil v. Union of India & Anr.

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