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An Indian court has rejected a plea to remove the prime minister’s photo from Covid-19 vaccination certificates, and fined the petitioner Rs 100,000 (about £1,000) to prevent copycat lawsuits.
The certificates issued by India’s federal government contain vaccination details of the individual, a photograph of PM Narendra Modi, and a message that encourages inoculation. The inclusion of the PM’s photo has been widely criticised by many in India, with some claiming that it amounted to the prime minister’s desire for self-aggrandisement.
The prime minister’s photo on the certificates has also reportedly created problems for Indians traveling abroad as immigration officers, who do not recognise Mr Modi, have accused the document-holder of committing fraud.
Judge PV Kunhikrishnan said Peter Myaliparampil, the 62-year-old petitioner from Kottayam city, wasted the court’s “valuable time” and added that the fine was a message to others who may come up with similar “frivolous pleas.” If Mr Myaliparampil failed to pay the fine in time, the court ordered his assets to be sold off.
“Citizens need not be ashamed to carry a vaccination certificate with the photograph of the prime minister with a morale-boosting message, especially in this pandemic situation,” the judge said, adding that there was a political motive behind the petition. “It is not a significant petition. The motive behind the petition is not about public good, but for publicity.”
“Nobody can say that a prime minister is a Congress prime minister or a BJP prime minister or the prime minister of any political party,” Justice Kunhikrishnan added. “But once a Prime Minister is elected as per the constitution, he is the Prime Minister of our country and that post should be the pride of every citizen.”
Mr Myaliparampil — who is also an activist — had said in his petition that to have the PM’s photo on vaccine certificates when the public had to pay for the jabs was a violation of fundamental rights. While filing the petition in October, he had also said that Mr Modi’s photo on the certificate had “no substance, utility or relevance”.
His lawyer Ajit M Joy said that since the petitioner paid for the vaccine, the state cannot take “undue credit” for this.
Mr Joy also pointed out that vaccination certificates of other countries didn’t have the photo of the heads of the government. To this, the judge said that “they may not be proud of their PM, but we are.”
“He [Mr Modi] became the PM because of the mandate of the people. We may have different political opinions, but still, he is our PM,” the judge said.