Nepal | July 10, 2020

Citizenship bill stuck in SAGGC

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Kathmandu, August 3

The new citizenship bill continues to remains stuck in the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives, although the government had registered it in the Parliament on 7 August 2018.

The HoR panel had formed a sub-panel to forge consensus, but that remains elusive.

SAGG Chair Shashi Shrestha said she could not say if the Parliament would pass the bill in the ongoing budget session.

If passed, this bill could ease the process of issuing citizenship to those who qualify, especially children of citizens by birth who have been waiting for more than three years to obtain citizenship.

Senior Advocate Surendra Kumar Mahto said the state as the guardian of all citizens, had the responsibility of ending the deadlock on citizenship bill. “No argument can justify delay in passing the citizenship bill, especially when the Supreme Court has also stayed issuance of citizenship cards to children of citizens by birth,” he said.

“SAGGC says it wants consensus among top leaders of major parties, but I do not think consensus will emerge on citizenship issues,” Mahto said, adding that when parties sought to forge consensus in the first Constituent Assembly, they failed and ultimately the CA was dissolved.

Mahto said when the major parties wanted to frame the new constitution in the second CA on the basis of majority, nobody stopped them then. If they wish to pass the citizenship bill this time, nobody will stop them now.

Mahto said some lawmakers’ argument that the current provisions under which foreign women married to Nepali men obtained naturalised citizenship certificate immediately after marriage lacked merit as there was no research or evidence that could suggest that the existing provisions created any problem or harmed national interest.

“A human becomes a non-person in the absence of citizenship certificate. Without citizenship, a person cannot get a job, nor can s/he open bank account or obtain driving licence. The state should therefore feel the urgency of the situation and enact a new citizenship law,”

Mahto said and added that even in the absence of new citizenship law, there was no bar on issuing citizenship to children of citizens by birth.

“The constitution clearly stipulates that children of citizens by birth are entitled to citizenship by descent,” he argued.

Human Rights lawyer Mohan Kumar Karna said political parties were deliberately delaying passage of the citizenship bill.

Member of NHRC Mohna Ansari said that while the Parliament was within its right to thoroughly discuss any bill, it should not prolong the process with regard to the citizenship bill. She said citizenship was linked to enjoyment of fundamental rights and hence delay in enactment of a new citizenship bill was adversely affecting citizens’ rights.

“There are some people who say citizenship issues can have long term effects on the country, but they do not know about the serious challenges stateless people can pose to the country,” she said and added that if people were rendered stateless, they could develop negative feelings towards the country and consequently they could pose serious challenges to the country in the long term,” she argued.

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna said major parties were deliberately delaying enactment of citizenship bill.

He said some rights activists were demanding that the words of the citizenship bill be changed beyond the sanction of the constitution.

“There are over six to seven lakh people in all the regions, including the hills, who have not been able to obtain citizenship due to lack of a new law,” Karna said.

A version of this article appears in print on August 04, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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