The Kerala High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre, seeking its response to a petition challenging the use of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph on Covid vaccination certificates. Peter Myaliparampil, a senior citizen and RTI activist, has filed a plea before the HC, urging that the union government should be directed to give him an inoculation certificate without the image of the PM. He has said in the petition that he has paid for his vaccination and the state has no right to claim credit by inserting a photograph of the Prime Minister in the certificate.
“Even if the photograph of the Hon’ble Prime Minister carries with it a mere motivational message, the petitioner wants to be spared of it. The petitioner has a constitutional right to be left alone. These are private spaces which are the petitioner’s own,” says the petition.
Opposition parties too have frequently raised objections to the Prime Minister’s photo being put on vaccine certificates generated through the government’s CoWIN platform. The Trinamool Congress had accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre of “misusing official machinery”. Several non-BJP state governments issued vaccine certificates with respective chief ministers’ photos on them when they were buying vaccines from the Centre. The union government, though, said that having the PM’s photo on vaccination certificates has helped educate Indians about following Covid-appropriate behaviour even after getting inoculated.
Myaliparampil says that the certificate issued in his name, having his personal details and the details of a medical record, is his private space and the state has no right to access that space any more than the petitioner consents to.
He has also appealed to the court to declare that the photograph of the PM in his vaccine certificate is a violation of his fundamental rights.
“The petitioner is concerned that the national campaign against Covid-19 is being converted into a media campaign for the Prime Minister. The presence of the photograph of the PM in Covid-19 related campaigns and messaging in public places including Railway Stations, Airports, Post Offices, Banks along with the same messages in public websites and social media handles of government entities, all with the photograph and name of the Hon’ble Prime Minister seems to the petitioner to be designed for more than just a health campaign. There seems to be an effort to show the campaign as a one man show, a propaganda to project an individual at state expense,” the petition says.
Myaliparampil had addressed a representation to the union health ministry on September 20, 2021, to issue him a certificate without the photograph of the PM. He says so far there has been no response.