NEET 2021: SC allows OCI Candidates to Appear in General Category Counselling
New Delhi: In a major relief to candidates belonging to the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), the Supreme Court on Thursday passed an interim order, allowing them to participate in the general category of NEET counselling fro 2021-22 academic year.
The interim order was passed in writ petitions of OCI candidates challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs' notification to treat OCI at par with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) for medical college admissions via NEET.
Explicitly stating the order to be valid only for the year 2021-22, the court went on to declare OCI candidates as "Indian Origin, Not Outsiders". It quashed the notification of the Home Ministry which denied OCI's eligibility for admission under any seats reserved exclusively for Indian Citizens.
The plea pointed out that OCIs like petitioners have undergone many years of schooling in India, and their families live and work in India.
Despite the same, they are not allowed to compete with the general pool of candidates and are forced to compete for a very small number of seats earmarked for NRIs.
This would mean that they would also have to pay exorbitant admission fees that accompany the NRI quota seats, which they cannot afford unlike NRIs whose families are living and working in the global west and have more access to financial resources, the plea said.
Meanwhile, to answer the question as to the status of OCIs before the Home Ministry's notification, the Additional Solicitor General of India, Aishwarya Bhati (ASG) clarified that previously OCI were governed by separate state laws. Further explaining the three categories namely- Indian Citizen, OCI and NRI; ASG submitted that OCI are those who have voluntarily taken up citizenships of other countries as the constitution allowed them to do so. Special privileges have been granted to such OCI cardholders by the government notifications.
The counsel said, "There are several conditions upon which a person becomes OCI's but they are not Indian citizens in terms of constitution & the Foreigners Act. But they have a special privilege. There are large citizens who do not have access to the resources of their country.OCI cardholders have benefits even in terms of taking citizenship"
The counsel further stated that the students have a right to participate in the exam but pointed that the seats are under NRI category. "They cant come for the seats reserved for Indians," Bhatti said. She added that their rights have not been taken but many of the seats are subsidised as there is a government quota, management, and NRI quota.
After listening to the submissions, the bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Abdul Nazeer directed the NTA to eclare the results of OCI candidates and permit them to appear for counselling in general category. The Court clarified that the order is confined only to the academic year 2021-22, reports Livelaw
The bench remarked:
"We are of the view that at least for the current academic year 2021-2022, the petitioners are entitled to be considered eligible for all the medical seats which the OCIs were eligible for before the issuance of the impugned notification dated March 4, 2021. Therefore, we direct the NTA to declare the result of the examination taken by the petitioners NEET UG 2021 and the eligible petitioners are permitted to appear for the counselling in the general category. This order is confined to the academic year 2021-2022."
The presiding judge of the bench Justice Abdul Nazeer went on to say.
"They are all Indian origin & they are not outsiders. They have sent dollars for our country & they have already undergone. They don't have money like NRI's. Dont you think it looks arbitrary? Give them some time. Legal aspects apart. There is a challenge to the provision itself we'll consider at a later stage. But this is so sudden... I don't know how many of them will pass. You have not made any condition precedent. You have allowed them to participate. You know legitimate expectation again. From all angles, what is the justification like this?Our only objection is that you can take some time to take the decision. We might not have any objection subject to what is stated is that time is taken to apply this. All of a sudden this change, we don't know what their condition is"
The SC also argued that when it comes to paying fees under the NRI quota, these students do not have enough money as NRIs.
"Why of a sudden this material change. We don't know what position they are in. They had legitimate expectations that alright this year, they will hold the exam and appear and as a threshold of the exam, they will have to appear in the NRI quota. The question of participating in the counselling on a particular quota only depends on the year of the exam and not before that. Now once they clear the exam, you all of a sudden say that you will have to pay a fee of NRI quota," SC said adding that there are around 10 per cent seats in the NRI quota.
Other issues raised in the writ would be heard on October 20 by the apex court.