The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ruled that wearing a mask inside a vehicle was compulsory even if the driver was alone, Live Law reported. A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh gave the verdict, while dismissing a batch of petitions challenging fines imposed by the Delhi government on people not wearing masks while travelling alone in personal vehicles.

Referring to masks as a “suraksha kavach” or shield, Singh, in her order, said that a vehicle would constitute a “public place” even if it was occupied by one person, as it goes through places where it may risk exposure to others, Bar and Bench reported. The court also noted that wearing masks should be encouraged inside homes if there were elderly persons living there.

“Scientists and international governments advise wearing of a mask,” Singh said, according to Live Law. “The challenge of the pandemic was enormous and the wearing of face masks is necessary whether a person is vaccinated or not.”

The petitioners against the fine had submitted that that it was an unjust and illegal one as a person travelling alone could not be said to be in a “public place”. One of the petitioners, advocate Saurabh Sharma, had sought compensation of Rs 10 lakh for mental harassment after he was fined Rs 500. He had contended that the officers who imposed the fined on him had failed to provide any any executive order on the offence, Live Law reported.

Another petitioner, Sudesh Kumar, told the court that he was fined despite having his mouth and nose wrapped with a scarf while driving his car. His lawyer had told the court that the challan issued while imposing the fine did not mention the date or time of Kumar’s offence, or the offence itself. The lawyer added that the challan booklet was pre-stamped and signed by a magistrate and no receipt was issued to Kumar for the amount he paid as fine.

During the proceedings, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had submitted that it had not issued any directions asking people to wear masks inside vehicles when they were alone. However, it added that health was a state subject under the Constitution and the Delhi government had to take a decision on the matter.

The Delhi government, meanwhile, had told the court that it was mandatory for a person to wear a mask while moving around in a personal or official vehicle. The government cited a Supreme Court judgement where it had held that when a private vehicle passes through a road, the public has the opportunity to “approach” it and have access to it, Live Law reported.

The Delhi High Court had reserved its verdict on the matter on February 17.