New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reserved its decision on several pleas challenging the imposition of challan for not wearing a mask while driving a private car alone.
Justice Prathiba M Singh heard arguments on behalf of the Centre, Delhi government and the petitioners who were challaned for not wearing a mask while driving alone in their respective vehicles.
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. The Delhi government 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.
It also said that a private vehicle was held to be a public place by the Supreme Court. One of the petitioners -- advocate Saurabh Sharma -- has claimed 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.
Another petitioner -- Sudesh Kumar -- told the court that he was challaned despite having wrapped his mouth and nose with a scarf while driving in his car.
Kumar's lawyer also told the court that the challan does not mention date or time of the offence or the offence itself, it was issued by a sub-inspector, the challan booklet was pre-stamped and signed by a magistrate and no receipt was issued to him for the amount paid.
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. Two other similar pleas have been filed 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.
His plea 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'. PTI HMP RKS RKS