Peter Myaliparampil, an activist in Kerala (India) has filed a petition in the Kerala High Court challenging the use of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo on the COVID vaccination certificates and to have the photo removed from the COVID vaccination certificates being issued in India.
It is claimed that the national campaign against Covid-19 is being used as a media campaign for PM Modi eyeing the 2024 elections.
The petitioner Peter Myaliparampil (Peter) has asked the court to intervene and order that a fresh certificate, without the PM photo be issued.
The activist stated that he had received the paid COVID-19 vaccination from a private hospital. But when he received the vaccination certificate, it had a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the message: “medicine and strict controls (in Malayalam), together India will defeat COVID-19 (in English)”.
It is noteworthy the government website cowin.in and other government literature on the government campaign talks about FREE Vaccine for ALL Indians.
Peter stated that after receiving the certificate, he wrote to the Central government and requested for a vaccine certificate without the photograph.
His request was not responded to. ‘No response” from the government, he claimed left him with no other option but to come to court for relief.
Peter through his advocate Ajit Joy, claimed that affixing the PM’s photograph on COVID certificate is a violation of his fundamental rights. He can be considered as captive audience and it goes against his free speech right protected by Article 19 of the Constitution of India against compulsory and forced listening.
Peter also contended and rightly so that the government messaging and campaigns, using government funds should not personify a political player, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is.
Perhaps going a bit far, Peter also claims this affects his independent choice of voting, which has been recognised as the essence of the electoral system in Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India.
It is worth noting that the Supreme Court of India has, in Common Cause v. Union of India stated that 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.
In light of that postulation by the Supreme Court of India, use of PM Modi’s photo on Vaccination Certificates can be interpreted as contravening the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
The petition seeks the Court’s intervention to arrange for the setting up of a provision on the COWIN platform to generate certificates without the photograph for those who chose the same.
Justice N Nagaresh of the Kerala High Court issued notice to the Centre to respond to Peter’s petition. The matter will be further taken up next after the Centre files its counter.