‘Mobile nos, ID proof for COVID testing of mentally ill homeless not requried’

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the ICMR to come out with a clarification that mobile number, government issued identity card, photographs or even a residential proof ought not be insisted upon for COVID-19 test of mentally ill homeless persons.

According to an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory of June 19 every person who was to be tested for COVID-19 has to provide a government issued identity proof and should have a valid phone number for tracing and tracking the individual and his/her contacts.  

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said that ICMR should issue a clarification by way of a circular or an office order that the identity proof, address proof and mobile number are not required for testing mentally ill homeless persons.

The high court said a camp can be organised for testing such persons as is being done across Delhi for others.

“Guidelines have to be given by you (ICMR). You put it in black and white for the states’’ benefit. You only need to clarify in two-three lines that mobile number, address proof and identity cards are not required for testing mentally ill homeless persons,” it said.

“Use your powers for the public at large. Once you do so (issue the clarification), all states will comply,” the bench added.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, appearing for ICMR, sought time to take instructions from the government regarding the observations made by the bench.

The high court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on August 7.

The bench was hearing a PIL moved by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal  seeking directions to ICMR and Delhi government to issue guidelines for COVID-19 testing of mentally ill homeless persons in the national capital.

The high court on July 9 had asked the ICMR to consider the plight of the mentally ill homeless persons and see whether they can be tested without insisting upon a mobile number, government issue identity card and residential address proof.

The bench had said to ICMR that many homeless mental ill persons are institutionalised or in shelter homes and therefore, traceable, so there was no need for their identity proof or phone numbers to test them for COVID-19.

In response to the court›s query, ICMR has filed an affidavit stating that the purpose behind submission of government identity card and telephone number was to ensure proper tracing and treatment of positive cases and their contacts as ‹›Test/Track/Treat›› is the best strategy for control of COVID-19 pandemic. 

It further said that since health was a state subject, concerned state health authority may consider adopting a suitable protocol to ensure that the strategy of ‹›Test/Track/Treat›› is followed and the grievance raised in the PIL is also addressed.

ICMR, in its affidavit, has said that it has only advised to facilitate contact tracing as well as tracking of the COVID-19 infected patients.

«The modalities regarding the contact tracing as well as tracking of the COVID-19 infected patients completely falls under the domain of IDSP, NCDC and state health authorities. 

«ICMR is a research organization and the contact tracing as well as tracking of the COV1D-19 infected patients is not under the domain of ICMR,» it has said in its affidavit.

Bansal has claimed in his petition that the Delhi government has not taken seriously the lack of guidelines with respect to COVID-19 testing of mentally ill homeless persons.

He has said the high court had on June 9 directed it to address the grievances raised by him in another PIL with regard to mentally ill homeless persons in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policy.

He said that on June 13 he also sent a representation to the Chief Secretary of Delhi government for providing treatment to mentally ill homeless persons in the national capital who have no residence proof. 

However, nothing was done by the Delhi government, he had told the court.