The Single Bench comprising Justice Pratibha M Singh of Delhi High Court has ruled that wearing of a mask in a vehicle is compulsory during the COVID-19 pandemic even if it is occupied only by its driver and has no other occupants.
“A mask is like a Suraksha Kavach for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. It protects the person wearing it as also the person who is exposed. Wearing of masks has been one measure that has saved millions of lives”, the Court remarked.
The Court opined that if the vehicle traverses through public places, there may be others who may risk exposure. In this regard, the Court also noted that wearing masks is encouraged even within the home if there are elderly persons or persons with co-morbidities.
Court holds that a vehicle even if constituted by one person would constitute a public place, and it is compulsory in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition was preferred by advocate Saurabh Sharma after he was fined Rs. 500 for not wearing a mask while driving alone in his car. As per the Petitioner, the imposition of fine was unjust and illegal as he was alone in his personal, private vehicle.
The Central Government has told the Delhi High Court that it has not issued any guidelines directing people to wear a mask while travelling alone in a vehicle (Saurabh Sharma vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East & Ors).
In an affidavit filed by Department of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, the Centre maintained that public health is a State subject by virtue of Entry 6 of List III of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Hence, public health and hospital is the primary and exclusive responsibility of the State government, it said.
The affidavit was filed in a petition by an advocate seeking compensation of Rs 10 lakh after he was fined Rs. 500 for not wearing a mask while driving alone in his car.
The Centre also said that under provisions of Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the State Executive Committee is empowered to implement the guidelines by Government of India, in its local context and epidemiology.
While the Government of India and the State governments have been working in collaboration to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, it does not include any direction from the Central government on mandatory wearing of masks when a person is alone in a vehicle, the affidavit stated.
Case Title: Saurabh Sharma vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East & Ors