President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, on recommendation of the government, today issued an ordinance to amend the Nepali Citizenship Act allowing children of citizens by birth and children of Nepali mothers to obtain Nepali citizenship.

With the issuance of the ordinance, children of citizens by birth, who have not been able to obtain citizenship due to lack of a federal law, will now be able to obtain their citizenship by descent.

The ordinance also stipulates that children of Nepali mothers whose father cannot be traced will be entitled to citizenship by descent if the children have domicile in Nepal.

The amendment was one of the demands put forth by the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal for its support to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

The faction had promised Oli on Friday to help him form a new government under Article 76 (5).

The bill had been under discussion in the House of Representatives for the past two years, but was not endorsed due to differences among parties, mainly over some other provisions of the bill, including the waiting period for naturalised citizenship for foreign women married to Nepali men.

Senior Advocate Surendra Kumar Mahto said the ordinance incorporated the constitution's provision into the Citizenship Act, making the act consistent with the constitution. He said the Supreme Court had ordered the government to grant children of Nepali citizens by birth Nepali citizenship in all cases, but since there was no new federal law chief district officers would deny the applicants their citizenship. "Now the CDOs cannot deny citizenship to children of citizens by birth on the pretext of lack of new federal law," Mahto added.

Advocate Mohan Kumar Karna said while the amendment to the Citizenship Act granting citizenship to children of citizens by birth was a welcome move, the applicants might still face difficulties in practice. He said the chief district officers could delay granting citizenship on one or another pretext. Moreover, the ordinance will cease to exist after six months, he added. "Somebody can file a case and the court may halt the distribution of the citizenship as per the ordinance," he said. He added that 22 years ago, the court annulled distribution of citizenship by the citizenship distribution team and as a result citizenship cards of almost 3,000 people were invalidated after almost four years.

He said Oli's party was the main hurdle as far as passage of the new citizenship bill was concerned in the dissolved House of Representatives. Lawmakers of the PM's party did not allow the bill to go to the full house, he argued.

Province 2 Chief Attorney Dipendra Jha said implementing the amendment made to the Citizenship Act would be a challenge. "It depends on how honestly CDOs implement the act," he added.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 24, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.