Kerala HC dismisses plea opposing PM's photo in vaccination certificates
The Kerala High Court Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking the removal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's photo from COVID-19 vaccination certificates. The HC also fined the petitioner Rs. 1 lakh, calling the plea "frivolous," "politically motivated," and a "publicity interest litigation." Notably, the plea was filed by a senior citizen and an RTI activist Peter Myaliparampil.
Many people have raised concerns about PM Modi's photo on their vaccination certificates. Modi already faces criticism for "stealing the limelight" from researchers and healthcare workers. However, the HC ruling serves as a legal rejection of all criticism against the move. The HC has noted in its judgment that mere political differences should not become a cause for disrespecting the PM.
The court reportedly directed the petitioner to deposit Rs. 1 lakh in favor of the Kerala State Legislative Authority (KeLSA) within six weeks. Upon failure, the KeLSA shall recover the amount from his assets through initiating revenue recovery proceedings against him. This was done to send a message that the court will not entertain such frivolous pleas that waste judicial time, the HC added.
While dismissing the petition, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan said it is the duty of citizens to respect the prime minister irrespective of political affiliation. "The PM is elected because he has got people's mandate," Justice Kunhikrishnan reportedly said. After assuming office, he ceases to be the leader of a party and becomes the leader of the country, he added.
The court further observed that one can oppose the actions of the government under a particular PM but should not be "ashamed to carry a vaccination certificate with the photograph of the prime minister with a morale-boosting message, especially in this pandemic situation."
The court also highlighted facets of India's parliamentary democracy and how political opponents need to be respected. The court highlighted how India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru used to listen to communist leader AK Gopala "patiently" despite ideological differences. It also talked about how PV Narasimha Rao sent the then-Opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee to represent India at the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.
The plea had argued that the inclusion of PM's photo in a private vaccination certificate of an individual serves no public purpose or utility. It had contended that adding the PM's photo to the certificate is an intrusion into an individual's private space. The same was described as a violation of fundamental rights by the petitioner.