Wearing a mask or face cover in a vehicle occupied by either a single person or multiple persons is compulsory in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. Mask is like a “suraksha kavach” protecting both the person wearing it and those around. This auspicious judgment was passed by The High Court of Delhi in the Matter of Saurabh Sharma & ors Vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate & Ors [W.P.(C) 6595/2020 & CM APPL.23013/2020] by Honourable JUSTICE PRATHIBA M. SINGH.
The facts are the Petitioner was in his car travelling alone, with his mask hanging on his face, from one of his ears. The case here is that since he was in his car alone, he had not put the face mask on and that he had intended to wear the mask as soon as he stepped out of the car. Later he was informed that the non-wearing of a mask by him violates the Delhi Epidemic Diseases Regulations, 2020 and a sum of Rs. 500/- was imposed on him as a fine.
Learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner submits that the challan for Rs.500/- issued to the Petitioner has been signed by the Executive Magistrate, is without any authority of law. He further submits that, as the phrase ‘public place’ is not defined in the June Notification, the contents of the April Order cannot be read into the said Notification. Following arguments, he submits that the private car cannot be considered as a public place.
Learned counsel for the respondents submits that Public Health and Sanitation’ falls in List 2 of the VII Schedule of the Constitution of India and therefore, the exclusive responsibility is of each State. He submits that insofar as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is concerned, it has not issued any guidelines directing people to wear masks while driving alone in a vehicle.
The Court held that “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”.
The Court relied on several WHO guidelines and government notifications that said a person travelling alone in a car could also get exposed to Coronavirus in various ways: “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 busy street, before entering the car or vehicle. Such a person may be required to keep windows open for 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 contacted with the virus.”