Nepali citizenship has always been a hot topic for lawmakers since the begining of the multi-party democracy in the country. After a lot of discussion and twice approved by the house it failed to win verdict from the President in 2079 and King Birendra in the same way 22 years back.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari has returned the citizenship bill. Sagar Acharya, the spokesperson for the President’s Office, said she had returned the bill on Sunday evening. Prez Bhandari was bound to give a verdict on the bill by Monday according to the constitutional provision.
The House of Representatives approved the Nepali citizenship amendment bill with a majority and was presented to president Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Shrawan 15, but she has returned it back to the cabinet for reconsidering some provisions.
Following the President’s rejection of the Citizenship Bill, some people recalled a similar incident nearly 22 years ago when then-King Birendra Shah refused to place the red seal on the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
The Citizenship Act 2020 Amendment Bill was introduced by the then-government in 2057. And, despite the fact that it did not address financial issues, the government referred to it as the Finance Bill. Financial bill was not obligated to be approved by the National Assembly after being passed by the House of Representative. Then-government did not have majority in National assembly.
The bill was significant because it would have paved the way for the issuance of Nepali citizenship to approximately 40 lakh citizens who did not have a proper documentation. The vast majority of those without papers were from Madesh. The new bill included a provision that would grant citizenship to people even if their fathers did not obtain legislation as required by the 1962 Constitution.
The bill after being passed by the HoR was taken to the king. However, the king did not place the red seal on this bill. Instead, he asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the bill is constitutional. The Dominion of Nepal 2047 Constitution provided that the Head of State could seek an opinion from the Supreme Court on any matter.
After the King requested an opinion, the Supreme Court would convene a hearing and issue a decision based on the arguments of both sides and the opposition. The Supreme Court ruled that the amendment bill of the Citizenship Bill is not in accordance with the Constitution. The Apex court stated that “no foreigner of any gender, other than Nepalese themselves, would be eligible for grant of Nepali Citizenship.”
Even after 22 years of King Birendra refusing to approve the citizenship bill, the issue of citizenship in Nepal remains complicated.