Citizens cannot be intolerant to the extent that they cannot withstand the photograph of the Prime Minister in a certificate, the Kerala High Court has said. The observation came in an order issued by a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, on January 25 while dismissing an appeal filed against a single judge order junking a plea seeking removal of the Prime Minister's photo from the COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
The bench said the photograph could be seen only as an effort made by the Government of India to discharge its obligations, duties and functions by capturing the attention and cooperation of the citizens.
A single bench of the High Court had on December 21 last year dismissed the earlier petition, filed by Peter Myaliparampil, saying it was "frivolous", filed with "ulterior motives", "publicity oriented" and the petitioner probably also had a "political agenda". It had imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner and he preferred an appeal against the single judge order.
The High Court Bench, in its order, said they do not think that the Prime Minister of India requires any more advertisement than occupying the office of the Prime Minister of India and thereby making his presence in several hundreds of platforms within the country and abroad.
"That said, it is a fallacious contention that the attempt is to attract the electorate, because the vaccination certificate is downloaded by the individual and kept with him for his personal purposes, and thinking so it would not fetch any larger publicity, than confining to the particular individual," the court said.
The court said that the printing of a photograph, or inscriptions contained in the certificate would not interfere with the fundamental rights of the people since the photograph and the inscriptions are made apparently with the intention of gathering the attention of the citizens at large and to motivate the citizens to come forward for the administration of the vaccine.
The High Court observed that an action was required from the side of the Government of India since COVID-19 vaccination was not made compulsory.
"The rights guaranteed there under cannot be treated so wafer thin and so peripheral and hence citizens cannot be intolerant to the extent that they cannot withstand printing of the photograph of the Prime Minister in a certificate. Which thus means, merely because there is a photograph and an inscription in the certificate, the right of the citizen to criticize the same in accordance with law, conferred under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution is not interfered with, which could be the extent of right in the context," the court said.
The division bench had, however, considering the pandemic situation and consequential crisis prevailing in the community, reduced the cost imposed on the petitioner to an amount of Rs 25,000.
"This we say because even if a cost of Rupee One is imposed against a litigant, that is a clear indication given to the litigant that in future he should not venture in filing unwanted and frivolous litigations and waste the valuable time of the court," the High Court said.
The court had earlier said that in case of failure to deposit the cost within the stipulated period, the Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KeLSA) shall recover the amount from his assets by initiating revenue recovery proceedings against him.
During the hearing, the court had 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 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. Myaliparampil, a senior citizen, had contended in his plea that the Prime Minister's photo on his vaccination certificate was a violation of fundamental rights.