OCI students also eligible for admission to courses under govt., institutional quota: Karnataka High Court


‘They are to be considered as citizens of India for admission to professional courses’

Declaring that students under the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) category are to be considered as “citizens of India” for admission to professional courses, the High Court of Karnataka has directed the State government to admit them to undergraduate professional courses, including engineering, medical, and dental, even under the government and institutional quotas, and not to restrict their admission only under the NRI quota.

A Division Bench comprising Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice N.S. Sanjay Gowda delivered the verdict while dismissing an appeal filed by the government against the April 2019 single judge verdict, which also had allowed OCI students to seek admission to professional courses in regular quota of seats. The Division Bench allowed the petitions filed by OCI students, Pranav Bajpe and several others.

While confirming admission given to the students in 2019–20 based on the court’s directions, the Division Bench directed the government to admit all eligible OCI students to professional courses, through the Karnataka CET and the NEET admission process, from the academic year 2020–21 by allowing them to participate in counselling for selection of seats in government and private aided or unaided colleges.

The Division Bench has quashed Section 2(1)(n) of the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, as amended in 2017 to include the ‘OCI’ cardholders within the definition of “Non-resident Indian.”

While interpreting the provisions of the Constitution, the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the notifications issued on the rights of OCI cardholders under the Citizenship Act, the Division Bench held that inclusion of the expression ‘OCI cardholder’ in the definition of NRI in the 2006 Act was contrary to notifications issued under the Citizenship Act. The laws of the State must yield to the Central law as citizenship is controlled by the laws made by Parliament, the Division Bench held.

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Noticing that the petitioner-students were minors at the time of filing the petitions, the Bench held that they “had the benefit of a dual citizenship” — a citizenship of the foreign country on account of their birth in that country and the citizenship of India as per Section 41A and 4(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act, which gives citizenship of India with certain conditions.

This right is particularly conferred on minors in the Citizenship Act so as to safeguard and protect their interests until they attain full age, the Bench observed while holding that that State’s law equating the OCI students with NRIs was contrary to their parity with the Indian citizens made in the notifications issued under the Citizenship Act.

“Before parting, we would like to remind ourselves of the ancient Indian thought, namely “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means “the world is a family”. Therefore, the minor children of Indian citizens born overseas must have the same status, rights and duties as Indian citizens who are minors,” the Bench observed in post-script to the verdict.

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Sagar Biswas

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