Wearing masks in vehicles compulsory, even when travelling alone: Delhi High Court

“A vehicle even if occupied by one person would constitute a public place and wearing 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,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said .

Upholding Delhi government’s decision to make it mandatory for those travelling alone in cars to wear face masks, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that masks are like a “suraksha kavach” for preventing the spread of Covid-19 and that its use has saved “million of lives”.

“A vehicle even if occupied by one person would constitute a public place and wearing 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,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said .

Justice Singh said that scientists, researchers, international organisations and governments emphasize on wearing face masks to control the spread of Covid infection as the world continues to wrestle with the pandemic.

“The challenge of the pandemic was enormous at the outbreak of the same and even with the introduction of a few vaccines, the emphasis continues to be laid on wearing face masks. The wearing of masks is necessary irrespective of whether a person is vaccinated or not. A mask is like a ‘surksha kavach’ for preventing the spread of coronavirus,” said the court, adding the wearing of masks has saved millions of lives.

Four petitions were filed by lawyers last year challenging the imposition of Rs 500 fine on those not wearing face masks while travelling alone in a private car. The court on Wednesday said the lawyers, owing to their legal training, should have a higher duty to show compliance.

The Delhi government had earlier defended its decision to make wearing of masks compulsory in personal or official vehicles, saying they cannot be viewed as a “private zone”.

Referring to a judgment passed by the Supreme Court in July 2019 in a criminal case pertaining to drunken driving, the government said that a car or private passenger vehicle “shall be deemed to be a public place”.

“It is true that the public may not have access to such a private vehicle as a matter of right but the public have the opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road,” the top court had said.

The Delhi High Court was also told the decision to make masks compulsory in public places was taken in April last year as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority guidelines are “very clear cut” that “any person” moving around in their personal or official vehicle must compulsorily be wearing masks.

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