On a judgement dated 7th April, 2021, the Delhi High Court Justice Prathiba M. Singh mandated the wearing of masks even in circumstances when a person is driving alone in a private car and stated “A mask is a `Suraksha kavach’ for preventing the spread of the corona virus. It protects the person wearing it, as also the persons to whom the person is exposed. Since the inception of the pandemic, wearing of masks has been one measure that has saved millions of lives. In fact, wearing of a mask even in one’s own homes is encouraged if there are elderly persons or persons suffering from co-morbidities. 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. Thus, a vehicle even if occupied by only one person would constitute a ‘public place’ and wearing of a mask therein, would be compulsory. The wearing of a mask or a face cover in a vehicle, which may be occupied by either a single person or multiple persons is thus, held to be compulsory in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “
Four petitions were filed by four lawyers viz. Saurabh Sharma, Aditya Kaushik, Deepak Agarwal and Sudesh Kumar against imposition of fines by the Delhi Police levied for non-compliance with the wearing of mask in public spaces pursuant to the outbreak and onset of the COVID19 pandemic.
All the petitioners are lawyers themselves who were fined to the amount of Rs. 500 while they were travelling by themselves in their privately owned car in the streets of the National Capital Territory of Delhi without wearing masks at different hours of the day.
The windows of such cars were closed and all of them had the masks on their person, and they intended to put them on as soon as they would step out of the car. But it was held by the Police officials to have been in contravention of the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of COVID-19) Regulations, 2020.
It is noteworthy that, in all the cases, the windows of the car were closed.
“The questions which arise in these writ petitions are three-fold. First, whether it is compulsory for persons driving alone in their own private cars to wear face masks and the manner in which such masks ought to be worn.
Secondly, if as per the various guidelines, orders and notifications issued, the fine imposed on the Petitioners is valid and legal.
Thirdly, if any compensation is liable to be granted.”
It had been made a mandate by the Central Government for people to wear masks in public places, and the States were given the liberty to formulate regulations and rules to implement the same.
The prosecution of the lawyers was supported by the Delhi Government during such proceedings in the Delhi High Court.
Whether other States and Union Territories consider reviewing their stance regarding this issue post such ruling of the Delhi High Court’s ruling is yet to be seen.
The people of Delhi have outwardly displayed their reservations about such ruling.
BS Vohra, president of East Delhi’s Joint RWA forum, considered the decision of the Hin’ble Court to be “not fair”. He commented, “We have no option other than to obey the court order. But I think wearing a mask while driving a car with all windows closed should not be made mandatory. When all windows of a car are closed and the person is in the vehicle then it is a private environment. The court should also take cognisance of political rallies and protests where hardly anyone is seen wearing masks or following social distancing norms.”
Seconding the opinion of Vohra, Sanjay Rana, president of Greater Kailash-2 RWA said, “I feel that masks should be mandatory when a person is driving alone with the windows open; but if all windowpanes are closed and the driver is alone in the car, then there should be no such compulsion. The court should do something about crowding in markets and other public places as it poses more danger than a single man driving a car.”
The Vice-president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, Mudit Aggrawal said, “I would urge the court to reconsider their decision. This would lead to unnecessary harassment and corruption without any actual benefits in controlling Covid-19 cases.”
On the other hand, the Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor supported the decision of the Court, “We support the court’s ruling. We have even run mask and sanitiser distribution campaigns. We call upon our workers to encourage use of masks by distributing them wherever they are needed.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION REGARDING THE DELHI HIGH COURT’S VIEW REGARDING THE WEARING OF MASKS IN PRIVATE CARS WITH CLOSED WINDOWS? DO LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!