Nepal | March 27, 2019

Nepal Citizenship Bill faces hurdles to passage in HoR

Rewati Sapkota

Kathmandu, January 30

Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara today said that the Nepal Citizenship Bill may not be passed during ongoing session of the Parliament in its current form. The bill is under consideration in the House of Representatives.

If the government withdraws the bill in the face of opposition, it cannot be reintroduced in the winter session of the Parliament.

The  State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House has been holding  clause-wise discussion on the bill, but has not reached a conclusion  due vertical split between male and female lawmakers, competing arguments between parties and concerns expressed by
stakeholders, including rights activists.

Female lawmakers, including Binda Pandey, have argued that women should not face any difficulty in transmitting nationality to their children irrespective of who they are married to, but other male members of the ruling party have said that the bill’s provision cannot alter the constitutional provisions that stipulates that children of Nepali women married to foreign men would only qualify for naturalised citizenship.

A pressure group led by Suryanath Upadhyay today met Mahara and urged him to withdraw the Nepal Citizenship Bill, arguing that it would enable foreigners to obtain Nepali citizenship.

They said that any children who wanted to obtain citizenship by descent must prove that their fathers are Nepali citizens, an argument opposed by some female lawmakers.

“It will be difficult to pass the bill. Some lawmakers are for the bill and others are opposed to it. Those lawmakers that are against the bill are not weak in the House. I do not think that the bill will be passed easily,” Mahara told the group.

Mahara suggested to Upadhyay-led group to discuss the issue with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa. “The government can withdraw the bill if it wants. It can be postponed if the debate prolongs in the panel meeting,” Mahara said, adding, “As a speaker I can hold discussion on the issue in the Parliament.” Mahara also said that he would discuss the issue with chairperson of the parliamentary panel.

“It is a sensitive issue. It is also a matter of nationality and country,” Mahara said.

According to Advocate Dipendra Jha, there are around 170,042 citizens by birth and children of citizens by birth who are unable to get citizenship certificate due to non-enactment of new citizenship act.

Nepali mothers married to foreigners and Nepali mothers who did not want to name the fathers of their children, were unable to get citizenship despite constitutional guarantee of their rights.

 


A version of this article appears in print on January 31, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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