Day 5 Hearings: Constitutional Rights of OCIs

Constitutional Rights of Overseas Citizens of India

On February 8th 2022, a Bench consisting of Justices Nazeer and Murari issued an Order clarifying that Overseas Citizens of India students would be treated at par with Indian students in all respects for this academic session, including the fees charged.

The Bench continued to hear challenges to Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955, filed by a group of Overseas Citizens of India who claim that the provision gives the executive unchecked discretion to revoke their citizenship.

In this hearing, Senior Advocate Anita Shenoy appeared on behalf of an OCI student who had secured admission in IIT Madras in the Open Category. OCI students who had secured admission this year were charged the same fees as foreign nationals who had secured seats in the foreign national quota. Ms. Shenoy argued that the OCI students, having secured seats under the Open Category, must be charged the same fees as Indian citizens.

From 2009-2020, OCI students had been treated at par with Indian students. However, this was reversed in 2021, and OCI students were charged the same fees as students who had obtained seats through the NRI quota.

The Court passed an Interim Order in November 2021 stating that for this admissions cycle, OCI students would be allowed to appear for counselling in the Open Category at par with Indian students. Ms. Shenoy argued that the differential fee structure in IIT Madras was violative of the Supreme Court’s Order.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing on behalf of the Union of India, argued that per semester, OCI students were to pay a fee of Rs. 3,18,000 while Indian students paid Rs. 1,40,000. The difference was only marginal.

Nazeer J interjected, reiterating that the Court had already ordered that Indian and OCI students be treated at par in every respect.

Murari J said that the difference in fees charged was substantial, and may be difficult to bear for some students.

Ms. Bhati argued that Indian students must reap the benefits of subsidised education and not OCI students, who had wilfully chosen not to avail of Indian citizenship.

AOR Sonal Jain, appearing for IIT Madras, argued that typically, fees are charged on the basis of birth, and not on the basis of the category under which students were admitted. For instance, even if a Scheduled Caste student obtained admission in the General Category, they would be charged lower fees on the basis of their identity as a Scheduled Caste person.

The Bench appeared unconvinced by these arguments.

The Bench further issued another Order, directing that its November 2021 Order would apply to all courses, including B.A.M.S. (Bachelor’s in Ayurvedic Medicine) courses in the 2021 cycle.