Kerala. High Court on Monday questioned a petitioner on his objection to Prime Minister’s photograph being affixed to the Covid vaccine certificates while hearing a plea seeking its removal.
Justice PV Kunhikrishnan, upon noting that the petitioner works at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Leadership, also asked for an explanation as to how the inclusion of current PM’s image on vaccine certificates differs from naming a university in the name of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru.
“What is the problem if Prime Minister Modi’s name is there on the vaccine certificate? You work at an Institute named after Jawaharlal Nehru, he is also a Prime Minister. Why not ask the university to remove that name also“, the judge remarked orally.
Upon hearing the contention of the petitioner’s counsel that the vaccination certificates issued in other countries do not contain the photographs of their respective leaders, the Justice Kunhikrishnan orally observed,
“They are not proud of their PM, we are proud of ours. He became PM because of the mandate of the people. We have different political opinions but he is still our prime minister,” the judge said.
The Court also repeatedly asked the petitioner why he seemed to be ashamed of the PM who was elected to office by the citizens of the country.
“Why are you ashamed of your Prime Minister? 100 crore people don’t seem to have an issue with this so why do you? I am just trying to understand,” Justice Kunhikrishnan remarked orally.
The Court also questioned the petitioner’s argument that the inclusion of the PM’s photograph on the certificate is an attempt to win the next election.
“Everything a government does in its five years tenure is to come back to power again. You should be proud of the Prime Minister,” the judge remarked.
To this, the petitioner’s counsel said, “Whether one should be proud of the Prime Minister or not is a personal choice“.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by a RTI activist who claimed to have received paid COVID-19 vaccination from a private hospital. Thereafter, he received a vaccination certificate which had a photograph of Prime Minister along with the message – “medicine and strict controls (in Malayalam), together India will defeat COVID-19 (in English)”.
Advocate Ajit Joy, appearing for the petitioner contended that affixing the PM’s photograph on COVID certificate, particularly when he had paid for the vaccination, is a violation of his fundamental rights as he can be considered as captive audience.
He vehemently argued that this goes against his free speech right, including the right against compelled listening, protected by Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Joy also pointed out according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court (in Common Cause v. Union of India) on campaigns using public money, 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.
For the Central government, it was argued that the petition is not maintainable as there is no mention of violation of constitutional rights.
Input Courtesy – BarandBench