Peter Myliaparampil has sought that the court declare the affixing of the PM’s photograph in the vaccination certificate a violation of his fundamental rights.

Smiling image of Peter M from Kerala who challenged affixing PM Modi photograph on Covid Vaccination Certificate Peter
news COVID-19 vaccination Sunday, October 10, 2021 - 19:42

A 62-year old man from Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district of Kerala has moved the High Court seeking to remove Prime Minister Narendra Modi's photograph from the COVID-19 vaccination certificate because it has “no utility” or “relevance”. In his petition filed on October 8, Peter Myliaparampil has sought that the court declare the affixing of the PM’s photograph in the vaccination certificate a violation of his fundamental rights. Peter urged the court to direct the Union government to issue a COVID-19 vaccination certificate without the PM’s photograph. 

Peter is a Congress worker in Kaduthuruthy and a state coordinator of the National Campaign for People’s  Right to Information. Speaking to TNM, he argued that the government has no right to claim credit by way of affixing the PM’s picture in his vaccination certificate given that he had paid for his COVID-19 vaccine. "I was vaccinated at a private hospital by paying money for it at a time when the government was not able to provide everyone with a free vaccine. The government is doing the vaccination drive using public money. In the past too, the country had done vaccination to eradicate many diseases. It's inappropriate in a democracy to put the Prime Minister’s photo on the vaccination certificate," Peter told TNM.

In his petition, Peter cites several grounds to remove the PM’s photograph from the certificate. One of the foremost reasons is that it serves no utility. “It is a certificate issued merely to confirm the status of vaccination of a person. The photograph of the Hon’ble Prime Minister has no relevance in such a certificate as can be seen from such certificates issued by other countries. Any additional messaging or motivation in a certificate is irrelevant as the recipient of the certificate is already convinced of its utility and has taken the vaccination voluntarily. Further messaging in a certificate is no more than ‘preaching to the converted,’” states the petition.

Peter also argued that the vaccination certificate is his “private space” with his personal details on record and therefore he has “constitutional right to be left alone”. “A certificate is a private document of a citizen, an individual with details about the person. It’s inappropriate to intrude into the privacy of an individual for the purpose of propaganda. It’s quite inappropriate to have his photo in private documents,” Peter told TNM.

Pointing out that removing the PM’s photograph from the certificate will not lead to any harm to the state nor to government police, the petitioner said that no public interest is served by affixing his picture. “Tell me what is the advantage of having the photo on the certificate if I travel to any other country with the certificate or what advantage the country has from it? The photo of a Prime Minister or those in power hasn’t been put on the vaccination certificate of any other country. After all, he is not the first Prime Minister of the country,” Peter said.

The Kerala HC has sent a notice to the Union Government seeking the COVID-19 certificate without PM Modi's photo on it. In August, the Union Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar, while responding to a question by Kumar Ketkar MP of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha said that the aim of the photo and the PM's message is that even vaccinated people must continue to follow COVID appropriate behaviour. The vaccination certificate with the PM's photo had caused trouble for several international passengers, with reports that immigration officials in other countries had suspected Indians of fraud. 

Read: India’s vaccine roadmap: Will all adults be vaccinated by December end?