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Private vehicle is also a "public place", wearing mask compulsory even when driving alone - wearing of masks is necessary irrespective of whether a person is vaccinated or not - Delhi High Court   Apr 07, 2021

In this case  the Petitioners were not wearing any face masks; in one of the cases case, the Petitioner had a mask which was dangling from one of his ears; and, in the fourth case, the Petitioner was not wearing a mask, but was wearing a safa/dupatta/scraf covering his nose and mouth. 


One of the questions that arose  was  whether it is compulsory for persons driving alone in their own private cars to wear face masks and the manner in which such masks ought to be worn.


While answering the issue in the affirmative and upholding the penalty imposed on the Petitioners, the Hon'ble High Court held that:


"50. Thus, the word ‘public place’, has to be interpreted in this case in the context of the COVID pandemic. To determine what constitutes a `public place’ the manner in which the Coronavirus can spread is the crucial part. It is now settled and accepted universally that the corona virus spreads through droplets either through breathing of a person or from the mouth. The risk of exposure increases multiple times if a person comes into contact with a person who is infected and is not wearing a mask. 

 

51. The moot question to ask is, therefore, whether a person travelling alone in a moving car or vehicle can be exposed to other persons and if the answer to this in an affirmative, then the car or private vehicle would be a public place for the purpose of the present case. A person travelling in a vehicle or car even if he is alone, could be exposed to the virus in various ways. The person may have visited a market, or workplace, or hospital or a busy street, prior to entering the car or vehicle. Such person may be required to keep windows open for the purposes of ventilation. The vehicle may also be required to be stopped at a traffic signal and the person could purchase any product by rolling down the window. The person may thus be exposed to a street side vendor. If a person is travelling in the car alone, the said status is not a permanent one. It is merely a temporary phase. There could be other occupants in the car prior to the said phase and post the said phase. There could be elderly family members or children who may be picked from the school or even simply friends or colleagues may travel in the car in the immediate future. Such persons can also be exposed to the virus if the occupant was not wearing the mask. The droplets carrying the virus can infect others even after a few hours after the occupant of the car has released the same. There are several possibilities in which while sitting alone in the car one could be exposed to the outside world. Thus, it cannot be said that merely because the person is travelling alone in a car, the car would not be a public place.


52. A mask is a `Suraksha kavach’ for preventing the spread of the corona virus. It protects the person wearing it, as also the persons to whom the person is exposed. Since the inception of the pandemic, wearing of masks has been one measure that has saved millions of lives. In fact, wearing of a mask even in one’s own homes is encouraged if there are elderly persons or persons suffering from co-morbidities. A vehicle which is moving across the city, even if occupied at a given point in time by one person, would be a public place owing to the immediate risk of exposure to other persons under varying circumstances. Thus, a vehicle even if occupied by only one person would constitute a ‘public place’ and wearing of 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 in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


 56. This Court would also like to add that all the four Petitioners in these cases, being advocates/lawyers ought to recognise and assist in implementation of measures to contain the pandemic, rather than questioning the same. Advocates as a class, owing to their legal training have a higher duty to show compliance especially in extenuating circumstances such as the pandemic. Wearing of masks cannot be made an ego issue. Compliance by advocates and lawyers would encourage the general public to show greater inclination to comply. The duty of advocates and lawyers is of a greater magnitude, especially in the context of the pandemic for enforcement of directives, measures and guidelines issued under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005"



Copy of the judgement is attached   

 

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