The Division Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly has dismissed the appeal filed against the Judgment of the Single Judge, Justice P. V. Kunhikrishnan, dismissing a writ petition filed against the using the photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Covid-19 vaccination certificates.
Though the Judgment was passed on 25th January, the Judgment became available recently.
However, the Bench has reduced the cost imposed upon the Petitioner by the Single Judge to Rupees Twenty Five Thousand from Rupees One Lakh.
The Court has cited the present pandemic situation and the consequential economic and other crises prevailing in the community as the reason for reducing the cost.
The Division Bench has held that printing of a photograph or inscriptions on the certificate would not interfere with the fundamental rights of the Petitioner since the photograph and the inscriptions are made with the apparent intention of gathering the attention of the citizens at large and to motivate the citizens to come forward for the administration of the vaccine.
The Court held that "..once an elected body comes to power in the Parliament, with the mandate of the voters, it is entitled as of right, to carry on with administration of the nation by making policies that are suitable, convenient and adaptable to the nation, bearing in mind the larger public interest".
The Bench held that individual rights are subservient to the public interest. "An individual right on the basis of the guaranteed fundamental right under Part III of the Constitution of India is subservient to the larger public interest when any volatile situation has engulfed the nation and the entire world", the Court held.
On the argument that the photograph was used without authority of law, the Bench held that, "..Government of India is vested with powers under Article 73 of the Constitution of India to issue executive orders in the matter of administration of the nation for the common good by adopting and envisaging appropriate policies to meet with the felt necessities of time, without infringing the fundamental and constitutional rights guaranteed and conferred under the Constitution of India..".
While dealing with the argument that Petitioner's rights under Article 19(1)(a) is offended by the usage of PM's photograph, the Court held that "The rights guaranteed there under cannot be treated so wafer thin and so peripheral and hence citizens cannot be intolerant to the extent that they cannot withstand printing of the photograph of the Prime Minister in a certificate".
The Court held that a citizen is not entitled as of right to ask the Government of India to remove the inscriptions and photograph of the Prime Minister from the Certificate exercising rights under Article 19(1)(a) because such a claim is never a fundamental right envisaged thereunder.
The Court held that the Petitioner has not discharged the onus on him to prove that the PM's photograph was used without PM's permission.
While dismissing the appeal, the Court held that, "Single Judge has taken into account the contentions put forth by the appellant and assimilated the factual and legal circumstances by undertaking a deep seated survey in regard to the way in which a parliamentary democracy is to function and discharge its obligations and duties and thereby protect the interest of the public at large".