The Central Government had told the Delhi High Court that it hadn’t issued any guidelines directing people to wear masks. This guideline was specifically about wearing a mask while travelling alone in a vehicle (Saurabh Sharma vs. Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East and Ors).
A Petition was filed by Advocate Saurabh Sharma. The Petitioner was fined Rs. 500 for not wearing a mask while driving alone in his car and thus, sought compensation of Rs ten lakh. An affidavit was filed by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India for this Petition. The Centre maintained that public health was a State subject by virtue of Entry 6 of List III of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Hence, public health and hospital was the primary and exclusive responsibility of the State government. Joby P Varghese filed the Petition. Devesh Singh represented the Delhi Government. Affidavit for the Health Ministry was filed by Advocate Farman Ali.
The Petitioner stated that the imposition of the fine was unjust and illegal. The reason was that he was alone in his personal, private vehicle.
One of the Respondents answered that they had not issued any guidelines directing people to wear masks while travelling alone in a vehicle. The Affidavit stated that health was a state subject and the present matter prima facie pertains to Delhi Government. It was stated that a personal vehicle was not a private zone by the Delhi Government.
The Government of India and the State Governments had been working in collaboration to tackle COVID-19 pandemic. The Affidavit stated that no directions from the Central Government include mandatory wearing of masks. This is specifically when a person was alone in a vehicle.
The Centre also considered provisions of Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Under this, the State Executive Committee was empowered to implement the guidelines of the Central Government, in its local context and epidemiology.
Court’s Observation and Decision:
The Central Government prayed for its removal from the list of parties in the Petition. However last year, the Aam Aadmi Party government had told the High Court that it was mandatory for a person to wear a mask even on being alone in a personal vehicle. The next hearing would be held shortly.
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