Sub-panel fails to forge consensus on naturalised citizenship

‘Ninety per cent issues have been resolved except this one’

Kathmandu, August 27

A sub-committee of the parliamentary State and Good Governance Committee has failed to recommend ways to end the dispute over naturalised citizenship, putting the passage of the Citizenship Bill in limbo.

The nine-member sub-committee was formed under lawmaker BijaySubba on March 21. It was initially given 15 days to submit the report, but it could not. The sub-committee finally submitted its report after over five months today, but without suggesting ways to deal with the thorny issue of providing naturalised citizenship to foreigners married to Nepalis and offspring of Nepali women married to foreign men.

This is expected to delay the passage of the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, which was registered in the Parliament more than a year ago on 22 August  2018.

The sub-committee was formed after over two dozen meetings of the SGGC could not resolve the issue of naturalised citizenship certificates.

The Citizenship Act Amendment Bill says a foreign woman will be eligible to become a naturalised citizen of Nepal if she is married to a Nepali man. But the bill does not say how long the foreigner should wait to become a naturalised citizen.

The bill also does not say whether foreign men who marry Nepali women will be entitled to naturalised citizenship. Lawmakers are divided on the issue of providing naturalised citizenship to foreign men who marry Nepali women, as many fear foreigners will enter Nepal in droves if such a provision is introduced.

The bill also says foreigners who have stayed in Nepal for 15 years and are offspring of Nepali mother and foreign father can become naturalised citizens of Nepal.  But lawmakers have not been able to finalise the requirements that applicants must fulfil to become naturalised citizens.

Lawmakers were aware that naturalised citizenship was a tough nut to crack from the beginning. That’s why the SGGC had directed the sub-committee to reach understanding with top leaders of political parties, mainly the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the main opposition Nepali Congress, Samajwadi Party-Nepal and RastriyaJanata Party-Nepal.

But consensus could not be forged. As a result, this prevented the sub-committee from suggesting a way to end the dispute.

“So, we have submitted the report without touching upon the issue of naturalised citizenship,” said Subba.

SGGC Chair ShashiShrestha acknowledged receiving the report. “I have not gone through it though,” she said, adding, “The full committee will discuss outstanding issues. We hope we can resolve these issues and pass the bill as early as possible as there is no dispute on almost 90 per cent of the content.”