Authentication of Citizenship Bill draws mixed reaction

Published On: May 31, 2023 05:45 PM NPT By: Sara Pahari

KATHMANDU, May 31: President Ram Chandra Paudel has certified the Citizenship Amendment Bill. According to the Office of President, the head of the state certified the bill on Wednesday.

Earlier on May 26, the government had requested President Paudel to certify the Bill, which was put on hold by then President Bidya Devi Bhandari for a long time.

The authentication of the Citizenship Bill has come under scrutiny, prompting prominent political figures to question the actions of the government. CPN-UML General Secretary Shankar Pokharel and Deputy Leader Subash Nembang have both expressed their concerns regarding the authentication of the bill and its implications.

Pokharel raised the questions on social media, wondering why Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal felt compelled to validate the Citizenship Bill just before his visit to India. Pokharel asked several questions to the prime minister about what compelled him to certify the Citizenship Bill.  

He wrote on social media:  

What is the government's obligation to verify the inactive Citizenship Bill just before his visit to India? Can the verdict established by the Supreme Court regarding citizenship be ignored? Can the government and parliament run away from the duty of answering the serious questions raised by the honorable former president? Is it possible to directly violate the constitutional provision of citizenship with territorial identity? What was the obligation of the honorable president, the guardian of the constitution, in this regard? Isn’t he  answerable?

In response to the controversy, Deputy Leader Nembang called the authentication process a blunder. He interpreted it as an attack on the parliament, the representative body of the people.

“This is a blunder. This is an attack on the parliament, a representative institution of the people. And, this is a very wrong step,” he told Republica. Leader Nembang commented that although citizenship is necessary, the authentication process is against the constitution.

“When passing the Citizenship Bill, there are constitutional laws, rules and procedures. We must be serious about this. Even after being approved by both Houses and sent to the then President for the second time, it was not verified. Meanwhile, the election of the House of Representatives was completed. According to the law, the bill became inactive and suddenly we got to hear today that the cabinet recommended it and the President approved it," he said.

Leader Nembang said that although Articles 61 and 66 of the Constitution are mentioned in the statement issued by the President's Office, there is no provision in these articles to address this issue.

“This provision is only in Article 113 of the Constitution. In this article, there is a provision that the head of the house in which it (the bill) originates will verify it and send it to the president for verification. This did not happen according to that arrangement," he said. 

Kamal Thapa, chairman of the breakaway faction of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), has said that the fact that the citizenship was verified by the president on the same day as Prime Minister Dahal's visit to India proves that the bill was made to please someone.

He wrote, "It is clear that the citizenship bill was approved on the day of PM’s visit to India. Who is this bill made to please? President Paudel's approval of the citizenship bill, which was stopped by the then president Bidya Bhandari, as being against the national interest, is an insult to the institution of the presidency. It is dishonesty to the nation."

Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi said that he will welcome the authentication of the Citizenship Bill.

He wrote, "I warmly welcome the authentication of the citizenship bill by the Honorable President Ram Chandra Paudel today. The problem of the children not getting citizenship for years has been solved even though both the father and mother are Nepali citizens. According to the recognition of parliamentary democracy and the constitution, the supremacy of the parliament has been maintained!”

CPN-UML leader Pradip Gyawali said that the citizenship bill verification is an internal matter of the country and he is trying to connect it with external aspects.

He wrote, “We have our own constitutional, legal and parliamentary procedures for validating the bill. The move made only a few hours before the Prime Minister's visit to India is clearly trying to connect a completely internal matter of any country like law-making with external aspects, which is a completely wrong practice.”

Rabi Lamichhane, chairman of Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has said that the President's verification of the Citizenship Bill is against the national interest.

Since the verification process, the controversial Citizenship Bill generated intense criticism from various political figures and sparked a demand for urgent action. On May 12,  Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) Chairman Upendra Yadav urged President Ram Chandra Paudel to authenticate the bill, which had been passed by the parliament twice. Yadav expressed concerns over the delay in implementing the law, labeling it as a wrong practice that undermined the sovereignty of the parliament. 

Similarly, on April 11, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha announced the government's commitment to revive the bill related to the Citizenship Act, stressing that no eligible individual should be deprived of Nepali citizenship. 

Amidst these developments, a writ petition was also filed at the Supreme Court against the then President Bidya Devi Bhandari for not certifying the Citizenship Bill, leading to further legal challenges. 

On May 27, the Stateless Struggle Committee protested in Kathmandu, urging President Ram Chandra Paudel to certify the Citizenship Amendment Bill the delay of which had caused difficulties for individuals in accessing government services as citizenship is a prerequisite.

Additionally, top leaders of various political parties pledged their commitment to pass the Citizenship Bill at the earliest to ensure that no Nepali citizens are denied citizenship certificates, particularly emphasizing the need to grant citizenship through the mother's name. 

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