The Kerala high court on Monday questioned the credibility of a petition that challenged the use of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image on Covid-19 vaccine certificates.
Hearing the petition, justice P V Kunhikrishnan asked the petitioner – who works at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Leadership – as to how the use of PM Modi’s photo on vaccine certificates differs from naming a university after former PM Nehru.
“He (Modi) is our Prime Minister, not the PM of any other country. He came to power through a mandate. Merely because you have political differences, you cannot challenge this. Why are of ashamed of our PM? [If] 100 crore people do not have any issue with this, why do you? You are wasting judicial time,” the judge observed.
The petitioner Peter Myalparambhil had moved court in October arguing that using the prime minister’s image on Covid-19 vaccine certificates “has no substance, utility or relevance”.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner, Ajit M Joy, argued that the vaccine certificate was his private space and he has certain rights over it.
He said since the petitioner had paid for the vaccine, the state can’t take credit for it. He also argued that it was a violation of the petitioner’s fundamental rights. The counsel pleaded that if the government insisted on using Modi’s photo on vaccine certificates, then there should also be an option to issue certificates without the PM’s image.
The counsel pointed out that vaccination certificates in several other countries don’t have images of the head of the government.
“They may not to be proud of their PM, but we are. He (Modi) became the PM because of the mandate of the people. We may have different political opinions, but still he is our PM,” the judge replied.
The counsel for the union government defended the use of the PM’s photo, saying Modi’s image along with his words on vaccine certificates will help create awareness about the inoculation drive against the coronavirus disease.
When a question came up in the Upper House in August, minister of state for health and family welfare Bharati Pawar had said that the PM’s image on vaccine certificates was ideal for promoting awareness of the vaccination drive.
After hearing out both sides, the court said it needed time to go through the details and will issue an order at a later date.
During a previous hearing on November 23 in a different bench, the court had discouraged the petitioner, saying that his plea had larger implications and asked him how would it seem if someone came with a plea to remove Mahatma Gandhi’s image from currency notes.
The counsel for the petitioner had then contended that Gandhi’s photo was printed on the currency according to regulations of the Reserve Bank of India, but PM Modi’s image was being used on vaccine certificates not on the basis of any statutory provision or rule.