April 08, 2021
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. Can you imagine the pressure of being the person responsible for producing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines not just to India and its citizens, but also to countries across the world? As the head of Serum Institute of India, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, Adar Poonawalla is definitely feeling the heat when he said that the existing production capacity is “very stressed, to put it frankly”.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Vehicle is a public place, mask mandatory even if one person occupies it: Delhi High Court
In a significant judgment, the Delhi High Court has ruled that mask is mandatory even if a person is driving alone in a vehicle. The court has also stated that a vehicle can be considered as a ‘public place’ in this instance.
The government in Delhi has mandated that those who do not wear masks will be imposed a fine of ₹500. There have been several cases in Delhi in which a single occupant in a private car was fined by the police for not wearing a mask. Four separate cases were filed (all by advocates/lawyers) challenging the fines imposed by Delhi police on them.
The court, in its judgment, stated that the complaints by the petitioners broadly led to three main issues:
- Is wearing of face mask compulsory when an individual is travelling alone in a privately owned car?
- Are the fines issued to the petitioners valid and legal?
- Do the petitioners deserve any compensation?
The arguments by the petitioners were as follows:
- Through an order issued on April 8, 2020 by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, the Delhi government mandated the use of masks for “any person moving around in his personal and official vehicle must be wearing their masks compulsorily”. However, a subsequent order issued by the office of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi on June 13, 2020 under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 [EDA], only mandated the “wearing of face mask/cover in all public places/workplaces”. Since the June notification did not explicitly state what constitutes a ‘public place’, the fines should not have been imposed (one of the petitioners was fined in September 2020).
- The June notification by the Lt. General of Delhi is not valid as he has not been conferred any power under the EDA to issue the regulations. The Executive Magistrate also does not have the power to impose fines, as the Executive Magistrate has not been authorized to act on behalf of the District Magistrate.
Delhi High Court’s judgment:
The court found that the arguments of the petitioners that the June order did not specifically mention what constitutes a ‘public place’ were untenable. It noted that the June order was issued “to enforce directives” and “to impose penalties by way of fines for a deterrent effect”. This order was merely in continuance of the April order, and hence both the orders should not be read in isolation.
The Court observed that the definition of a ‘public place’ varied from statute to statute based on the context. In the present case, the definition needs to be interpreted from the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A person travelling in a vehicle or car even if he is alone, could be exposed to the virus in various ways. The person may have visited a market, or workplace, or hospital or a busy street, prior to entering the car or vehicle. Such person may be required to keep windows open for the purposes of ventilation. The vehicle may also be required to be stopped at a traffic signal and the person could purchase any product by rolling down the window. The person may thus, be exposed to a street side vendor. If a person is travelling in the car alone, the said status is not a permanent one. It is merely a temporary phase. There could be other occupants in the car prior to the said phase and post the said phase. There could be elderly family members or children who may be picked from the school or even simply friends or colleagues may travel in the car in the immediate future. Such persons can also be exposed to the virus if the occupant was not wearing the mask. The droplets carrying the virus can infect others even after a few hours after the occupant of the car has released the same. There are several possibilities in which while sitting alone in the car one could be exposed to the outside world. Thus, it cannot be said that merely because the person is travelling alone in a car, the car would not be a public place,” the Court stated in its judgment.
The Court noted, “Under the EDA, Sections 2 and 2A confer powers on both the State Government and the Central Government, respectively, to prescribe such regulations as may be necessary for both the purposes of the prevention of disease, as well as the spread of disease. The said regulations once prescribed would have to be observed by the public or any persons or class of persons upon whom the same are imposed.”
The Court also relied on a judgment of the Supreme Court in another case where it had observed that “Practical necessities or exigencies of administration require that the decision-making authority who has been conferred with statutory power, be able to delegate tasks when the situation so requires.’”
Relying on the above interpretation, the Court stated that the fines issued were valid and legal.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
- Do we really need a new Department of Military Affairs and Integrated Theatre Commands?
For the Left:
- Validation by foreigners may give Rahul Gandhi a kick, but it hurts his politics.
🗳️ ELECTION WATCH
(126 constituencies – 3-phase polls)
- Assam Congress president Ripun Bora has written to the Election Commission asking it to provide access to the CCTV feed of strong rooms where Electronic Voting Machines have been kept to all the candidates. He noted that this will allay fears about manipulation of the EVMs.
(140 constituencies – 1-phase poll)
- In an instance of post-poll violence, an Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) worker was allegedly hacked to death by political rivals in Kuthuparamba, Kannur on Tuesday night. Mansoor, the IUML worker, was allegedly killed in a clash with pro-CPM gang when they were fighting over allegations of bogus voting.
(234 constituencies – 1-phase poll)
- AIADMK leader and Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development SP Velumani has been booked by the Kuniyamuthur police in Coimbatore for violating the model code of conduct during the day of polls on Tuesday. The complaint was given by the constituency’s zonal officer Raja Mohammed, who stated that Velumani had come in a car with AIADMK flag within 100 metres of the polling booth and had also worn a shawl with AIADMK party’s colours around his neck during polling.
- Complaints have also been raised against DMK’s youth-wing leader and Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni candidate Udhayanidhi Stalin, and BJP’s Coimbatore South candidate Vanathi Srinivasan for violating the model code of conduct after they were accused of carrying party symbols on their garments while voting.
(294 constituencies – 8-phase polls)
- The Election Commission has issued a notice to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after a complaint by BJP accused her of allegedly appealing to minority voters to not split their votes during a speech in Hooghly. EC has asked Mamata Banerjee to explain her remarks within 48 hours of receiving the notice.
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Strike where it hurts (Karnataka) – Employees of the state’s Road Transport Corporations (RTC) have begun an indefinite strike starting yesterday. One of their key demands was an increase in their pay based on the 6th Pay Commission. However, the government has ruled out implementing the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission. While the employees are prepared to go on strike indefinitely, the government has warned of strict action against them. The government has allowed private operators to ply their bus services to ease the burden of commuters.
Lots’a land (Haryana) – The state government has allotted 140 acres of land to e-commerce company Flipkart. The land, which has been allotted at a rate of ₹3.22 crore per acre, will be used to house Flipkart’s largest fulfilment centre in Asia. The land belongs to Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (HSIIDC) and is situated at Patli Hajipur in Manesar district of Gurugram.
Golden push (Gujarat) – Gold traders in Gujarat’s Rajkot have tied up with the government and have come up with a novel approach to encourage COVID-19 vaccination among the public. The traders are offering freebies like gold nose pin (for women) and hand blender (for men) to those who take the vaccination in Rajkot’s vaccination centres.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$13.1 trillion – Total net worth of all the billionaires in the world, according to Forbes World’s Billionaire List, 2021. There are a total of 2,755 billionaires in the world, with the US leading with 724 billionaires, followed by China and India with 698 and 140 billionaires, respectively. Over the past year, a record 493 new billionaires were added to the list, which translates to one new billionaire every 17 hours!