The common people of the country, like always, have been the ultimate sufferers of the crisis. Those in power and influence always seem to find a way out around problems, no matter if it is a global pandemic. However, the fight that the common man is fighting these days is not only with the pandemic but also with the country’s laws, the government’s inadequacy in actions and the system’s bias.
If you keep yourself updated with some daily dose of social media, you must have witnessed the viral video doing round of Delhi police charging a couple for not wearing masks while inside their “private” vehicle and the couple misbehaving with the personnel. Even though the video made headlines, it was because of the way the couple reacted and not the law that they were charged with, because this isn’t the first time Delhi police has charged heavy fines from people/ couples for not wearing masks inside their vehicle. Most people succumbed to the fines because that’s how it is in this country, right? You can’t question the system, you can’t ask for logic because most often than not, there is no answer. And I’m not talking about the police force. It seems like the court themselves are having a hard time figuring out if the private vehicle forms a part of public or private property. This stems from the fact that the Apex Court, last year, announced it was pointless for people that live together 24*7 to wear masks while driving with each other in their own vehicle. However, the Delhi Court, with a one judge bench, ruled that the car is a public vehicle and masks should be worn while driving- with or without company. Looks like the courts have not been following their own precedents. This puts the common man in a position of weakness because again if you live in Delhi, you have to abide by its laws, whether or not they make sense to you. Intuitively, wearing masks as a means to ensure the safety of yourself and the other person does not make sense for the people who actually live together, share their homes, eat the same food and share the same space. But apparently, because the courts can’t seem to figure out if your car is or is not public property, you do as they say. Pay fines, heavy charges or even jail for non-conformity. The couple in question was arrested by Delhi Police and charged with sections 188, 34, 51B DDMA and 186 of Indian Penal Court.
In her judgment, Justice Prathiba M Singh said a person travelling in a vehicle or car even if 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 a 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,” said the court.
If your response to this issue is something like “why such a debate about wearing masks, it’s not even worth arguing over…” take a step back and think that it is not about wearing or not wearing masks in a car. It is about the law. It is how it differentiates between those in power and those that pay taxes to run the country. How else do we justify the rallies and election campaigns going on in the country in the middle of a pandemic with absolutely no COVID-19 protocols being followed? We don’t see them getting charged with fines, challans or court cases. The common man is subject to harassment for not wearing masks in their own vehicle that the court can’t seem to categorise as public or private property but the politicians are allowed to urge people to come out in large numbers and vote at the expense of their safety. It is now more than just fines- it is about the purpose, the cause. If it does not make sense for people sharing the same space to wear masks in their own vehicle, not even for the apex court, why is the common man forced to abide by it? Rather, why are they there in the first place? Is this another way for the government to earn revenue because apparently logic does not seem to be a part of this conversation? It is more than the government’s tactics and the courts’ confusion- it is a question of law. Back in school during political science classes, you were taught how everyone is the same in the eyes of the law. Well, it didn’t make practical sense then and it certainly does not stand to be true now because the numerous incidents we counter every day seem to iterate how the law in itself is a puppet of power. And even if the law isn’t, the enforcers of law certainly are.