The AAP government told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that wearing masks while driving was made compulsory in April and the order remains in force till date. The submission was made on an affidavit filed before Justice Navin Chawla in response to a lawyer's plea challenging the Rs 500 challan issued to him for not wearing a mask while he was driving alone in his private car.
The petitioner-lawyer, Saurabh Sharma, has claimed in his plea that on September 9 while driving to work he was stopped by Delhi Police officials and was challaned for not wearing a mask even though he was alone in the car. Advocate Joby P Varghese, appearing for Sharma, told the court that subsequent to the April 4 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.
Advocate Farman Ali Magray, appearing for the ministry, said he needs two weeks more to place the correct position before the court which had issued notice in the matter on September 17. The court granted the ministry two weeks to file its response and made it clear that it should not seek more time on the next date of hearing on January 7.
The court listed on that date 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.
In his plea, filed through Varghese, Sharma has said that the officials who issued challan to 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 and a subsequent notification of June this 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.