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Delhi HC rules any vehicle is a “public place”, says masks mandatory even if driving alone

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ruled that any vehicle is a public place where COVID-19 rules apply and even if a person is driving alone in a car, a mask is compulsory. The verdict came in response to petitions challenging the imposition of fines for not wearing a mask while driving alone.

The high court bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh remarked that the mask is a “suraksha kavach (safety armour)” for both the person wearing it and the people around.

The court said, “Even if you are alone in the car, why object to wearing a mask? It is for your own safety. The pandemic crisis has increased. Whether a person is vaccinated or not, they should wear masks.”

The court said wearing a mask is the least one could do to be safe against COVID-19 and it has been suggested by scientists and governments across the world.

Justifying its stand, the court said that when a car stops at a traffic signal, drivers often have to roll down their window. “The coronavirus is so contagious that even in that time, anyone can be infected,” it said.

What petitioners contended

The petitioners, which includes an advocate who was made to pay a fine of Rs 500 by Delhi Police for not wearing a mask while driving alone, said that the Union health ministry had said in a press conference that it was not necessary for a person driving alone to wear a mask.

The Union health ministry submitted before the high court that there was no rule that a lone driver had to wear a mask, but every state has the right to make its own rules and enforce them. The Delhi government argued in favour of masks for all in private or public vehicles and submitted that it had also passed such an order in April last year.

COVID-19 situation in Delhi

Notably, the COVID-19 situation in India is worsening with each passing day, with cases and deaths rising significantly since February-end. Delhi alone reported 5,100 cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours that has taken the case tally to 6.85 lakh. There are 2,743 active cases of the virus in the national capital.

 

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