Delhi High Court order on masks driving alone curbs liberty

Delhi High Court order that a person should wear a mask even while driving alone in a car is unfortunate, as it unnecessarily restricts individual freedom

Ravi Shanker Kapoor |

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court has ordered that a person should wear a mask even while driving alone in a car. This is over the top and unfortunate, for the order unnecessarily restricts individual freedom.

“Even if you are alone in the car, why object to wearing a mask? It is for your own safety,” Judge Pratibha M. Singh said. “The pandemic crisis has increased. Whether a person is vaccinated or not, they should wear masks.”

Why not? Why shouldn’t I object to an unnecessary duty, especially when it is generally unpleasant?

First off, we must recognize the fact that all announcements made by the Central and state governments curtail individual freedom—the night curfew imposed in Delhi and other parts of the country, travel restrictions, protocols for malls and cinema halls, et al. The biggest, of course, was the harsh nationwide lockdown that brought everything to a screeching halt for 21 days, bleeding the economy, shutting down businesses, killing millions of jobs, and making the lives of over a billion people miserable.

This is not to say that all restrictions are unnecessary. But every curtailment of liberty must have some benefit for the society in general. So, if scientists believe that there is anecdotal evidence that mask wearing checks the spread of the novel coronavirus, making it compulsory in closed spaces is rational. So also in public vehicles—maybe even in private vehicles with more than one person in them, though this seems a bit excessive.

But forcing a person to wear a mask even when he or she is driving alone serves no purpose at all.

The high court reportedly called the mask a suraksha kavach (safety armor). At traffic signals, drivers often roll down their window. “The coronavirus is so contagious that even in that time, anyone can be infected,” it said.

But, if that is the case, the drivers rolling down the windows without masks should be penalized. A blanket ban on driving mask-less curbs civil liberties.

As it is, our political masters routinely come out with stipulations and measures that underline freedom. The Delhi state government, for instance, favored mandatory facemasks while driving alone in the court. The judiciary is supposed to safeguard our freedoms. In this case, it has failed.

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