Kathmandu, April 16
The Supreme Court today vacated its interim order that stayed the implementation of the Ministry of Home Affair’s circular issued a few days ago to district administration offices ordering them to issue citizenship by descent to children of citizens by birth. This means the DAOs can now issue citizenship by descent to children of citizens by birth.
A division bench of Justice Hari Krishna Karki and Bam Kumar Shrestha vacated the interim order issued by Justice Purushottam Bhandari on April 8. The SC is yet to prepare the full text of the order.
A single bench of Justice Bhandari had passed a temporary stay order acting on a writ petition filed by Senior Advocate Bal Krishna Neupane. On April 8, the SC had asked both sides to present their arguments.
Neupane had sought an interim order arguing it was unlawful for the MoHA to issue the circular at a time when a new citizenship bill was under consideration in the Parliament.
The ministry had issued the circular on April 2 as per the ministry-level decision, more than three years after the constitution guaranteed the right to citizenship by descent to the children of citizens by birth. In some districts, DAOs had started issuing citizenship by descent to the children of citizens by birth, but had to halt the process after the single bench of the apex court stayed the implementation of the circular.
The constitution allows children of citizens by birth to obtain Nepali citizenship by descent, yet they have not been able to obtain citizenship due to non-enactment of a new federal citizenship law. The children of citizens by birth are unable to get enrolled in education institutions, open bank accounts, obtain driving licences and avail of formal sector employment opportunities due to lack of citizenship. Nepal has 170,042 citizens by birth.
Tarai Human Rights Defenders Alliance had made a third party intervention in the court to argue on behalf of the children of citizens by birth. Appearing on behalf of THRD Alliance Senior Advocate Surendra Kumar Mahto said children of citizens by birth had absolute right as per Article 11 (3) of the constitution to obtain citizenship by descent which did not entail enactment of any new federal law.
Joint Attorney Sanjeeb Raj Regmi pleaded on behalf of the government, saying the MoHA issued the circular to DAOs as per the SC’s orders passed in cases filed by children of citizens by birth wherein the SC had told the government to ensure that children of citizens by birth got their citizenship without any hassle. In all the cases filed by children of citizens by birth, the SC had ruled in their favour and had told the government to ensure all the eligible persons got their citizenship without having to move the court, Regmi argued.
A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.