By Linus Garg
First publised on 2021-04-08 07:45:40
The Delhi government, through an office order in April last year, had issued a notification making wearing masks, even when driving alone, compulsory in a private vehicle. With the second wave of Covid infections hitting India with full force, the administration in Delhi has started enforcing this rule with renewed strictness. The Delhi traffic police have started fining people for ignoring this rule. Aggrieved by this, some people filed a petition in the Delhi High Court arguing that a private vehicle cannot be treated as a public place and a single person driving alone cannot be forced to wear a mask. The court rejected the plea, held that a private vehicle was indeed a public place (in line with an earlier decision by the Supreme Court) and in the time of the pandemic, it was the duty of all citizens to strictly follow health advisories issued by Central and state governments. While the Centre said that it had not issued such an order but with health being a state subject, the Delhi government's order has to be followed by citizens in the capital.
It is extremely unfortunate that people try to avoid health advisories thereby putting their own health and that of fellow citizens at great risk. A mask is the first line of defence against the coronvirus. With the mask now becoming a fashion accessory (there are various kinds of masks available in the market and many upmarket brands are giving matching masks with shirts and kurtis), it is not an irritant anymore. In fact, people not wearing masks in public places stand out like sore thumbs. The mask has now become a habit for most people, except the utterly obstinate, and it is good. Hence, if the government directs so, people should wear masks even when driving alone in a private vehicle.
The court righty rebuked the petitioners by saying that the mask is like a suraksha kavach in these trouble times and people "ought to recognize and assist in the implementation of the measures for curtailing the spread of the pandemic, instead of questioning the legality of the same". It is unfortunate that some people find fault with most government directives, even when they are issued to ensure public health and safety. Wearing a mask is a must when one is out in public places. People should always wear one and goad others to wear it too. Public awareness is the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.