Citizens should not become intolerant to an extent that they cannot withstand the prime minister’s photograph on a certificate, a division bench of the Kerala High Court has said, PTI reported on Saturday.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly made the remarks while dismissing an appeal against a single judge’s order in the matter. The petition had sought the removal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph from coronavirus vaccination certificates.

The division bench said that the photograph was an attempt by the Union government to discharge its duties by capturing the attention of citizens, and making sure that the maximum number of people take the vaccine.

Citizens cannot claim a fundamental right to ask the government to remove the prime minister’s photograph from the certificates, the court added, according to Bar and Bench.

“We do not think that the Prime Minister of India requires any more advertisement than occupying the office of the Prime Minister of India and thereby making his presence in several hundreds of platforms within the country and abroad,” the court said in its order. “That said, it is a fallacious contention that the attempt is to attract the electorate, because the vaccination certificate is downloaded by the individual and kept with him for his personal purposes...

The court added that the Union government is concerned with the fundamental rights of the public at large, and not the fundamental rights of an individual in a situation like the coronavirus pandemic.

“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 said.

Earlier, the single judge had imposed costs of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner, activist Peter Myaliparampil. The division bench, however, reduced it to Rs 25,000 instead. The bench cautioned him not to file frivolous petitions in the future.

Myaliparampil had argued that messages and campaigns funded by the government should refrain from exemplifying the Prime Minister as he is also the leader of a political party.

He also said that such publicity could affect the independent choice of voting that has been enshrined in the electoral system.

However, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan had described his plea as a “publicity-oriented litigation” and observed that it was frivolous and appeared to be politically motivated.

In an earlier hearing, the judge had asked the activist why he was “ashamed of our prime minister”.

“A hundred crore people don’t seem to have an issue with this so why do you?” Justice Kunhikrishnan had asked the petitioner. “Everyone has different political opinions, but he is still our prime minister.”