Plea before Kerala high court seeks removal of PM Modi photograph from vaccination certificate
A writ petition has been filed before the Kerala High Court challenging the photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi being affixed on the vaccination certificates issued to the citizens upon being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Justice P.B Suresh Kumar admitted the plea on Friday and posted the matter to be taken up two weeks later.
The petitioner is a senior citizen of India and an RTI activist. He received a paid COVID-19 vaccination from a private hospital. Soon he received his certificate as proof for the vaccination, which bore the photograph of the Prime Minister of India along with a message.
Aggrieved by the same, he moved the Court through Advocate Ajit Joy raising the following issues:
Whether any public interest is served by affixing the photograph of the Prime Minister in a Covid Vaccination certificate.
The petitioner argued that no public interest is served by affixing the photograph of the Prime Minister in a Covid Vaccination certificate. Removing this photograph from the certificate will not lead to any harm either to the state or to any policy of the government.
“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.'”
Whether the State can impose speech on the petitioner within the private space of a certificate recording his medical information.
The plea has raised an interesting argument on this issue. It alleges that when the government issues a certificate, the recipient of the certificate is no more than a captive audience. The petitioner as a captive audience is not in a position to avoid the objectionable speech and is forced to be subject to it, here in the form of the photograph of the Prime Minister and his message.
The State while addressing a captive audience has a duty not to compel listening from those unwilling, according to the petitioner. In other words, the petitioner has a right to free speech as protected under Article 19 against compulsory and forced listening.
To describe the same, a table was also drawn up in the petition. The same has been reproduced below for clarity.
As such, it is contended that the photograph of the Prime Minister on the petitioner’s certificate violates his fundamental rights as a listener and a viewer corresponding to box 4 and 6 in the given table.