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Kerala High Court Notice to Centre, State On Plea for removal of PM’s Photo On Covid Vaccine Certificate

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The petitioner claimed that his concern that the national campaign against Covid-19 was being used as a media campaign for the PM was fortified on receiving the certificate with the photograph.

Justice N Nagaresh issued notice to the Central government and directed them to file their counter in the matter.

The petition, filed by a Right to Information (RTI) activist stated that he had received the paid COVID-19 vaccination from a private hospital and thereafter received a vaccination certificate which had a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the message: “medicine and strict controls (in Malayalam), together India will defeat COVID-19 (in English)”.

The petitioner claimed that his concern that the national campaign against Covid-19 was being used as a media campaign for the PM was fortified on receiving the certificate and addressed a representation to the Central government for a vaccine certificate without the photograph.

However, as he received no response on said representation, he was prompted to approach the Court by way of the instant petition.

The plea filed through advocate Ajit Joy, claimed that affixing the PM’s photograph on COVID certificate, particularly when he had paid for the vaccination, is a violation of his fundamental rights as he can be considered as captive audience. It was stated that this goes against his free speech right protected by Article 19 of the Constitution of India against compulsory and forced listening.

It was also contended that government messaging and campaigns, especially when it uses government funds, should not personify a leader like the PM, as he is the leader of a political party as well.

According to the petitioner, this affects his independent choice of voting, which has been recognized as the essence of the electoral system in Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India.

Moreover, according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for campaigns using public money in Common Cause v. Union of India, no individual can be credited for the launch of an initiative or be celebrated for achievements of a certain policy of the State on government expense.

The present campaign flies in the face of these guidelines, the petitioner submitted seeking removal of the photograph from the certificate issued to him and for the setting up of a provision on the COWIN platform to generate certificates without the photograph for those who chose the same.

The matter will be taken up next after the Centre files its counter

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