Kathmandu, April 26
The Supreme Court today ordered the government not to issue citizenship by descent to children of those who obtained citizenship in 1997 from citizenship distribution team.
The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana and Justice Purushottam Bhandari in response to a writ petition filed by Senior Advocate Borna Bahadur Karki.
The new decision comes days after a division bench of the SC vacated its stay order that had halted the distribution of citizenship by descent to children of citizens by birth as per the circular issued by the home ministry on April 2 to all district administration offices.
The Rana-led bench ordered the government to halt implementation of the home ministry’s circular to the extent it could allow children of those who had obtained citizenship in 1997 from citizenship distribution teams led by Jitendra Narayan Dev as the SC had, in 2001, annulled those citizenship certificates. It is expected that the government had distributed around 32,000 citizenship certificates in 1997.
This means children of those who obtained citizenship at other times, including in 2007 and 2008, will be able to obtain citizenship certificates.
The SC stated that there was a need to stay the implementation of the circular as the SC’s 23 July 2001 verdict that annulled the citizenship certificates issued by the Dev-led citizenship distribution team was not executed by government agencies.
One of the main observations that the SC had made in the 23 July 2001 verdict was that citizenship certificates were distributed by officers who were not under DAOs.
Dev told THT that he had led the one-man committee that oversaw the government’s work but did not distribute any citizenship certificates.
“Citizenship certificates were distributed by teams deployed by the home ministry as per prevailing laws and not by my committee. Certificates were distributed on the basis of rules and directives,” Dev said. He added that some people who held cynical and chauvinistic views were unnecessarily raking up the citizenship issue.
“If all the citizenship certificates distributed 22 years ago are revoked, then that can lead to large scale protests in Madhes and even anarchy,” Dev warned.
Joint Secretary at the home ministry Narayan Prasad Shamra Duwadi said today’s stay order would not halt the implementation of the ministry’s circulars.
According to him, some citizenship cards were issued by officials of DAOs and some by officials of other government offices in 1997 and the court invalidated only those cards that were not issued by DAO officials.
“In 1997, cards of citizenship by birth were not issued because there was no legal provision for the same. The circular that we issued on April 2 only talks of children of those people who obtained citizenship by birth as per the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007,” he added.
A version of this article appears in print on April 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.