A mask is mandatory even if a person is driving alone in a car, the Delhi High Court said today, calling the car a “public place”. The mask is a “suraksha kavach (safety armor) “for the person wearing it as well as those around them,” the court said.
Judge Pratibha M Singh announced the decision during a hearing in a case involving fines for not wearing a mask while driving alone.
“Even if you are alone in the car, why object to wearing a mask? It is for your own safety,” the judge said. “The pandemic crisis has increased. Whether or not a person is vaccinated, they must wear masks.”
It was the least anyone could do to be safe from Covid, she added, citing advice from scientists and governments around the world.
The court said that when a car stops at a traffic light, a driver often has to roll down their window. “The coronavirus is so contagious that even then anyone can be infected,” he said.
The order is based on a petition from lawyer Saurabh Sharma, who went to court to challenge a 500 rupee fine he was forced to pay while driving alone without a mask and was arrested by Delhi Police.
The Union Health Ministry had told the High Court that there was no rule that a single driver must wear a mask. But each state had the right to make its own rules and enforce them, the ministry said.
Delhi’s Aam Aadmi (AAP) party government has advocated for masks for all in private or public vehicles and also passed such an ordinance in April last year.
The petitioner said that although the Delhi government announced the rule, the Union Health Ministry said in a press conference at the time that there was no need for a person driving only to wear a mask.
Two other petitioners challenged fines of 500 rupees they were charged with failing to mask while driving alone. They even asked for compensation for “moral harassment”.