Govt Can Penalise You for Not Wearing A Mask In Our Car

  • According to COVID-19 guidelines issued by various state governments, not wearing a mask while driving one’s personal car attracts a fine of Rs 500.
  • Police issuing tickets for violating the mask rule even when the driver is alone in the car has led to some criticism.
  • Medical experts have also questioned the rationale of the rule, arguing that masks must be mandated only in public places.
  • However, legal backing for the contentious rule comes from a 2019 ruling of the Supreme Court.

      What does the rule mandating masks say?

  • To check the spread of COVID-19, many states and districts have issued guidelines mandating the use of masks in public spaces under the National Disaster Management Act.
  • Violating such guidelines is penalised under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.
  • The punishment prescribed under this law is imprisonment of up to six months or a fine that could extend up to Rs 1000.
  • In Delhi, the Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19, Regulations, 2020 under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 mandate the use of masks in all public spaces.
  • The regulation gives power to various authorities to impose the fines.

      How can a personal car be considered a public space?

  • For this, the states have relied on a 2019 ruling of the Supreme Court in Satvinder Singh Saluja versus the State of Bihar.
  • In this ruling, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that a private car on a public road can be deemed a ‘public place’.
  • Therefore, any activity that is not permitted in public places will automatically be impermissible inside a private car.
  • Smoking, drinking, obscenity, are examples of activities that could attract penal action even when taking place inside a personal car, which is on a public road.