The Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking removal of prime minister’s photo from the COVID-19 immunisation certificates saying that PM is the leader of the nation and not of a political party and citizens “need not be ashamed” to carry a vaccination certificate with his photograph and “morale boosting message”.
“Nobody can say that a Prime Minister is a Congress Prime Minister or a BJP Prime Minister or the Prime Minister of any political party. But once a Prime Minister is elected as per the constitution, he is the Prime Minister of our country and that post should be the pride of every citizen.
“.. they can differ on the policies of the government and even the political stand of the Prime Minister. But the citizens need 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 high court said.
It also said that when COVID-19 pandemic can be eliminated only by vaccination, if the PM gave a message with his photograph, in the certificates, that with the help of medicine and strict control, India will defeat the virus, “what is wrong with it?”
The court dismissed the petition with a cost of Rs 1 lakh, saying it was “frivolous”, filed with “ulterior motives”, “publicity oriented” and the petitioner probably also had a “political agenda”.
“According to my opinion, this is a frivolous petition filed with ulterior motives and I have a strong doubt that there is a political agenda also to the petitioner. According to me, this is a publicity oriented litigation. Therefore, this is a fit case that is to be dismissed with a heavy cost.
“A citizen of this country argues before the High Court that carrying the photograph of his Prime Minister in the vaccination certificate with a morale boosting message in a pandemic situation is an intrusion to his privacy. The petitioner says that it is a ‘compelled viewing’. As I observed earlier, these are frivolous contentions, which one never expects from a citizen,” Justice P V Kunhikrishnan said.
The court directed the petitioner — Peter Myaliparampil — to deposit the cost in favour of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KeLSA) within six weeks. The court said in case of failure to deposit the cost within the stipulated period, KeLSA shall recover the amount from his assets by initiating revenue recovery proceedings against him.
It also said that the “petitioner should study the respect to be given to the Prime Minister and others by watching at least the parliamentary proceedings, which are available live on national TV”. The court said that if the petitioner does not want to see his PM or if he was ashamed to see the PM’s photo, “he can avert his eyes to the bottom side of the vaccine certificate”.
“Therefore, the argument by the petitioner that the photograph of the Prime Minister of India with a morale boosting message to his fellow citizens through the vaccination certificate is a compelled viewing of the photograph of the Prime Minister of India is to be rejected. This is also a frivolous contention raised by the petitioner,” the judge said in his 32-page judgement.
The court also said that ‘compelled listening or viewing’ is only there when the government forces someone to listen or view its messages. The court also said, “What is wrong with politicians? Since a small percentage of politicians are having a bad history, the entire politicians need not be ignored. They are the builders of our nation with innovative ideas.”
While imposing the cost, the judge said he was aware the amount was big as far as a citizen was concerned, but when such frivolous contentions are raised by a petitioner, he should know its effect and “the society also should know that if frivolous petitions are filed, the court will not accept the same”.
“Thousands of convicted persons in criminal cases are in jail in our country waiting for hearing of their appeals. Thousands of people are waiting for a result in their matrimonial disputes. Thousands of people are waiting for the result of their property disputes.
“In such a situation, this court has to consider those litigations as early as possible and this court is doing that every day. In such a situation, when frivolous petitions are filed, that should be dismissed with a heavy cost,” it said. “If the petitioner is coordinating this type of campaign, I have nothing to say but to pity him,” the judge added.
The petitioner had contended that the certificate was a private space with personal details on record and therefore, it was inappropriate to intrude into the privacy of an individual. He had contended that adding the Prime Minister’s photo to the certificate was an intrusion into an individual’s private space. The petitioner, a senior citizen, had contended in his plea that the Prime Minister’s photo on his vaccination certificate was a violation of fundamental rights.