The Delhi High Court has issued orders for the use of "9999999999" as a dummy phone number and address of labs or hospitals for COVID-19 testing of homeless mentally ill persons. The decision comes after the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) made submissions in an additional affidavit. 

Based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal under the claims that homeless mentally ill patients were going through hassles in COVID-19 testing due to protocols such as mandatory ID proof and mobile number, the ICMR proceeded to file the affidavit in the Delhi High Court. 

When the PIL came up for its hearing, a division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan informed the Centre to take into the account the petitioner's submission by making use of the ID of the police officer in jurisdiction over the particular area as an alternative to ID proof for the COVID-19 testing of homeless mentally ill individuals. 

In its affidavit, the ICMR stated that the concerned state health department can contemplate taking on appropriate protocol in order to attend to the grievance and ensure that the strategy of "Test/Track/Treat" is being followed. The court had earlier informed the Centre to identify a method and issue guidelines for the COVID-19 testing facility for mentally ill homeless people, including those who weren’t carrying any identity or address proof. 

In its affidavit, the Delhi government stated that one among the important issues currently being faced in the testing of the homeless and destitute persons with mental illness or suspected mental illness is the unavailability or absence of photo identity card and a valid mobile number. They said these are mandatory as per ICMR's national guidelines, which were issued by the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal stated in his petition that homeless mentally ill persons deserve special care and attention along with regular support from the government and society. "However, a crisis like the present COVID-19 pandemic puts additional responsibility on the government shoulders to formulate and implement such public health programmes for homeless mentality ill persons which are not only able to provide mental health treatment but can also effectively protect them from the said deadly virus," his plea said. Furthermore, the petition stated that as per Section 3 (3) of the Mental Healthcare Act-2017, the government must adhere to following all necessary steps to provide services required for persons with mental illness.