(MENAFN - Arab News) The Kerala High Court in southern India has allowed a writ application filed by the Riyadh-based Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia (FOKASA) against the 250 percent increase in consular fees for nonresident Indians (NRIs) in the Kingdom, a senior official from the association said yesterday.
R. Muraleedharan, president of the federation, said the Kerala High Court on Monday allowed the writ petition filed on behalf of FOKASA, challenging the notification issued by the Ministry of External Affairs directing Indian missions abroad to realize a 140 to 250 percent fee hike for passport and travel documents from nonresident Indians.
Entertaining the petition filed by the three petitioners, Rafi Pangodu, K.P. Harikrishnan and Siddique Nilambur, on behalf of the federation, Justice T.R. Ramachandran Nair also issued notices to the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi and the Embassy of India in Riyadh.
However, the court did not grant a stay of the government order.
The judge said the plea for a stay may be considered based on the affidavit submitted by the government of India.
Assistant Solicitor General Parameswaran Nair received the notices from the court.
When the petition came up for hearing, counsel for the petitioners K. Ramkumar contended that the new rules published in the Gazette of India, which had been brought into effect from Oct. 1, 2012, violates Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution of India.
"Overseas Indian workers consular fees have been enhanced exorbitantly whereas in the case of such applications from resident Indians, it is a nominal fee," Muraleedharan said.
Muraleedharan earlier said that his organization vehemently opposed the hike and urged the Indian government to immediately withdraw its decision to no avail. He said FOKASA therefore had to resort to legal means.
For a 36-page passport of 10-year validity, the all-inclusive fee in India is only 1000 Indian rupees, which is equivalent to SR 72. The new fee for nonresident Indians in the Kingdom is SR 282, which means an NRI must pay an increased cost of almost 400 percent to renew his passport in Saudi Arabia. Such applicants have to pay an additional fee of SR 15 for the outsourcing agency and another SR 8 for the Indian Community Welfare Fund.
"With the new fees, an ordinary contract worker in Saudi Arabia has to pay almost one month's salary for the passport alone. The average salary of a laborer is SR 350 per month," Muraleedharan explained.
According to a statement by the Indian government, passport-related fees increased from SR 500 to SR 1,500.