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Citizens’ duty to respect PM: HC junks ‘frivolous’ plea against Modi photo on vaccine certificate

Petitioner says being ‘forced’ to see PM’s photo on certificate ‘infringement’ of his rights. Kerala HC says petition ‘frivolous’, filed with ‘ulterior motives’, fines him Rs 1 lakh.

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New Delhi: “It is the duty of citizens to respect the Prime Minister of India,” the Kerala High Court said Tuesday, rejecting a plea seeking removal of PM Narendra Modi’s photograph from Covid-19 vaccination certificates. 

Justice P. V. Kunhikrishnan said the petition was “frivolous” and filed with “ulterior motives”. 

“I have a strong doubt that there is a political agenda also…According to me, this is a publicity oriented litigation,” he added. 

The court was hearing a petition filed by 62-year-old, Kottayam-based RTI activist Peter Myaliparampil, seeking a declaration that the Prime Minister’s photo on his vaccination certificate is an “infringement” of his fundamental rights. 

He also sought a direction to the Centre to issue him a vaccination certificate without Modi’s photo on it, asserting that the PM’s photo being on the certificate has “no utility and relevance”. 

However, the court dismissed the petition, and imposed a Rs 1 lakh fine on Myaliparampil. 

“According to me, it is the duty of citizens to respect the Prime Minister of India…they can differ on the policies of the government and even the political stand of the Prime Minister…But the citizen 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,” said Justice Kunhikrishnan.

He 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, available live on national TV”.

“The opposition leaders will object to the policies of the government with vehemence. But they will address the Prime Minister as the ‘Hon’ble Prime Minister’,” he added.

The judge rejected the argument that the petitioner was being forced to see the PM’s photo, observing, “if the petitioner does not want to see his Prime Minister or if he is ashamed to see the picture of his Prime Minister, he can avert his eyes to the bottom side of the vaccine certificate.”

Also Read: For Modi govt, health is not the focus, headlines are

‘A media campaign for the PM’

In his petition, Myaliparampil stated that the CoWin website (a government web portal for Covid vaccine registration) and app also has the Prime Minister’s photograph, as does the landing page of the Aarogya Setu app. According to the order, he then submitted that the “National campaign against Covid-19 is being converted into a media campaign for the Hon’ble Prime Minister”. 

The petition included vaccination certificates from the United States of America, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, France and Germany, which do not carry their respective PM’s photos.

The order said that during the hearing, Myaliparampil’s lawyer told the court that the PM’s photo on the certificate “forces the petitioner to compulsory view the photo, which is an infringement of his right”. 

The lawyer further said that the photo was accompanied by the message ‘Together, India will defeat Covid-19’, which leads the petitioner to be “forced” to listen to the message.

Assistant Solicitor General of India S. Manu called it a “publicity oriented litigation” and demanded dismissal of the plea. 

Rejecting the petition, the court, citing the severity of the pandemic, asked, “In such situation, while issuing a certificate for Covid-19 vaccination, if the Prime Minister of India gave a message with his photograph that with the help of medicine and strict control, India will defeat Covid-19, what is wrong with it?”

The court said that the petitioner was “raising fantastic arguments”. “The Prime Minister of India is not a person who entered the parliament house by breaking the roof of the parliament building. He came to power because of the mandate of the people,” it added.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: Jolted by bad press, Modi govt drafts plan to show it is ‘responsive, hard-working’


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