A single-judge bench comprising of Justice Prathiba M Singh dismissed petitions that challenged the diktat by the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi that declared that wearing a mask was compulsory even while driving alone in a car since a car is a ‘public space’. The Arvind Kejriwal government had imposed a fine on persons not wearing a mask even while travelling alone in a car.
Dismissing the writ petitions, Justice Singh terms masks as a ‘suraksha kavach’ (protective shield) and said that “Scientists and international governments advise wearing of a mask. The challenge of the pandemic was enormous and the wearing of face masks is necessary whether a person is vaccinated or not”.
While the Delhi government had submitted that an office order had made wearing masks compulsory, whether in a public or private vehicle, even while travelling alone in April last year and it remained in force until today. The central government had, however, said that it had passed no such stricture making the wearing of masks compulsory while travelling alone. While the central government had said it had not passed any stricture of the kind, it said that Health is a state subject and therefore, it was free to make rules.
During the hearing, one of the petitioners, Sudesh Kumar, had asserted that he was fined by the Delhi government even though he was alone in a car and had covered his face with a scarf.
According to LiveLaw, Kumar’s lawyer had also told the court that the challan does not mention the date or time of the offence or the offence itself, it was issued by a sub-inspector, the challan booklet was pre-stamped and signed by a magistrate and no receipt was issued to him for the amount paid. During the hearing, Kumar had also asserted that after the April 4, 2020 office order of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the Union Health Ministry held a press conference where it said any person driving alone in his private car did not need to wear a mask.
The Delhi government in its affidavit had said that the Regulations/Directives/Guidelines are very clear cut that “any person” moving around in his personal or official vehicle must be wearing masks as a mandate and that a private vehicle also falls under the ambit of this order. To make these claims, the Arvind Kejriwal government had relied on a judgment of the Supreme Court where it was held that when a private vehicle passes through a public road, the public opportunity to “approach the private vehicle” and have access to it.
Only recently, the Delhi Government had imposed a night curfew, from 10 PM in the night to 5 AM in the morning to apparently curb the second wave of Coronavirus cases in the territory. The Kejriwal government had said, “Delhi government is working on all methodologies and innovative ideas to control coronavirus. In many places in the country, after the nationwide lockdown last year, a night curfew was imposed, which is helpful in protecting people in that time frame. However, the government is not dependent on night curfew alone”.