OCIs, PIOs status issue being examined at highest level, Centre tells SC

OCIs, PIOs status issue being examined at highest level, Centre tells SC

The Union government has told the Supreme Court that the question of whether Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) are to be treated as NRIs or Indian citizens for the purpose of admission to MBBS course is being examined "at the highest level" and a decision would be taken soon.

The top court gave three weeks time to the Centre to explain its stand on a Karnataka rule, which treated OCIs and PIOs as NRIs disabling themselves to take admission to MBBS course on state quota seats.

The Centre's stand would also affect admissions of OCIs and PIOs to undergraduate medical seats in other states.

A vacation bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha granted time to Additional Solicitor General Sandeep Sethi and Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the Union government, to clarify the position.

A group of OCIs led by Shreya Joshi and others have challenged the Karnataka regulations, debarring them from competing for 85% state quota seats for admission to MBBS and other professional courses in colleges of Karnataka by appearing in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test.

They also contended that PIOs and OCIs cannot be treated within the category of NRIs.

Through the state quota, 15% seats are reserved for admission through all India quota from the merit list of NEET.

The counsel, appearing for the petitioners, seriously objected to granting any adjournment as they apprehended that even this academic year they may be denied admission.

The bench, however, said, "Even so, we deem it appropriate to defer the matter. Let the matter be listed on July 17, 2018."

The medical education regulator, MCI had earlier endorsed provisions of the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulations of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, as amended in 2017, whereby the PIOs and OCIs have been treated within the category of NRIs.

With the amendment in the Citizenship Act, 1955, the OCIs claimed they have legal rights to secure admission like other citizens of the country.

The MCI, for its part, also pointed to a notice issued by the Union government on July 28, 2017, stating the NRI candidates, including OCIs and PIOs, are eligible for NRI quota only and Indian nationals will be eligible for management seats only.

The regulator asked the court to dismiss the petitions while maintaining that every state government has its own laws to define the NRI, OCI and PIO and their eligibility criteria to seek admission in professional courses.