Wearing a mask or face cover in a vehicle occupied by either a single person or multiple persons is compulsory in the view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the Delhi High Court ruled on Wednesday.
“A mask is a ‘suraksha kavach’ for preventing the spread of the corona virus,” Justice Prathiba M. Singh remarked, while dismissing four different pleas challenging the ₹500 challan issued to persons for not wearing face masks while travelling alone in a private car.
“A vehicle which is moving across the city, even if occupied at a given point in time by one person, would be a public place owing to the immediate risk of exposure to other persons under varying circumstances,” the court said.
In one of the four cases, a lawyer, who was on his way to his chambers at Tis Hazari Courts on August 9, 2020, and driving his privately owned car, was stopped near Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, Rajpur Road, Civil Lines by the police.
The lawyer was in his car travelling alone, with his mask hanging on his face, from one of his ears. The case of the lawyer is that since he was in his car alone, he had not put on the face mask and that he had intended to wear the mask as soon as he stepped out of the car.
He stated that the four windows of his car were closed. When the police official stopped his car, he was informed that non-wearing of mask by him is in violation of the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, and a sum of ₹500 was imposed on him as fine.
The lawyer had sought to declare that privately owned cars are private places for the purpose of the Regulations of 2020. Apart from refund of the amount of ₹500, he also sought a compensation of ₹five lakh.
The High Court also clarified that authorised persons under the Regulations 2020 would include a District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, any officer of Health Department, who may be authorised, or of the State government. It also includes officials who hold the position of a Sub-Inspector or above in the Delhi Police.
Justice Singh highlighted that a person travelling in a vehicle or car, even if he is alone, could be exposed to the virus in various ways. “The person may have visited a market, or workplace, or hospital or a busy street, prior to entering the car or vehicle. Such a person may be required to keep windows open for the purposes of ventilation”.
“The vehicle may also be required to be stopped at a traffic signal and the person could purchase any product by rolling down the window. The person may, thus, be exposed to a street-side vendor. Thus, it cannot be said that merely because the person is travelling alone in a car, the car would not be a public place,” Justice Singh said.