New Delhi, Feb 9: Wearing of mask should not be an ego issue as it's for one's own safety from the COVID-19 infection, the Delhi High Court has observed while hearing a plea challenging imposition of challan for not wearing mask while driving a private car alone.
Justice Prathiba M Singh orally observed that wearing a mask even when travelling alone in the car is for one's own safety from the virus because when a person stops the vehicle at the traffic signal and puts the window down, there is a chance to catch the infection.
"You cannot make it an ego issue...wearing a mask," the judge said, and warned the petitioner of imposing cost on him.
The court was hearing a plea by petitioner-lawyer, Saurabh Sharma, claiming that on September 9, 2020, while driving to work he was stopped by Delhi Police officials and was challaned Rs 500 for not wearing a mask even though he was alone in his private car.
Advocate Farman Ali Magray, appearing for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, submitted that the ministry has not issued any direction asking people to wear masks in a car when they are alone. He said health is a state subject and the Delhi government has to take a decision on it.
Advocate Joby P Varghese, representing the petitioner, said the main counsel was not available and he wished to file rejoinder to the ministry's affidavit.
The court granted him one week's time to file the rejoinder and listed the matter for further hearing on February 15.
Earlier, the AAP government had told the court that wearing masks while driving an official or personal vehicle was made compulsory by way of an office order in April last year and it remained in force.
Sharma's counsel had earlier told the court that subsequent to the April 4, 2020 office order of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the Union Health Ministry held a press conference where it said persons driving alone in a car are not required to wear a mask.
The court has also been hearing two other similar pleas by Aditya Kaushik and Deepak Agarwal. Sharma, in his plea, has sought quashing of the challan, refund of the Rs 500 paid as fine and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for mental harassment allegedly suffered by him.
He has said that the officials challaning him failed to provide any executive order which makes it mandatory to wear masks while travelling alone in a private vehicle.
They also did not heed his request to write on the challan that he was driving alone and he paid the "illegal" fine under protest, the petition has said. It has contended that in the absence of any law or notification making it mandatory to wear a mask while driving alone in a private vehicle, the levy of fine on him was "ex-facie arbitrary and illegal".
The DDMA, in its reply, has contended that its office order of April, 2020 and a subsequent notification of June last year make it mandatory to wear a mask in a public place. It also said that the Supreme Court has held that a private vehicle is a public place. - PTI