Citizenship Bill hits roadblock as NC objects to threshold period

Published On: September 15, 2019 08:17 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 15: The government’s push for the Citizenship Bill requiring foreign women marrying Nepali nationals to wait for seven years to acquire citizenship hit a major roadblock on Saturday when the opposition parties objected to the threshold provision for naturalization of foreign brides. 

Tabling the party’s official note of dissent on threshold proposal during a meeting of the State Affairs Committee (SAC) of the parliament on Saturday morning, the main opposition Nepali Congress objected to the provision requiring foreign brides marrying Nepali men to wait for seven years, and demanded continuation of the existing provision in the Citizenship Act 2063. 

The existing act allows foreign women marrying Nepali men to acquire citizenship right after the marriage. 

However, parties from across the political spectrum have supported the existing provision that require foreign men marrying Nepali women to spend 15 years before acquiring Nepali citizenship. 

The main opposition party has argued that continuation of the existing provision in Citizenship Act 2063, which was decided through all-party consensus, was the only way forward to avoid possible crisis. 

“It won’t be in the country’s long-term interest if the government flexes its muscles with the backing of majority in parliament instead of agreeing to consensus to push forward such a sensitive matter of national importance like acquisition of citizenship,” reads the note of dissent handed over to SAC chair Sashi Shrestha. 

Saturday’s development means that the bill is unlikely to be passed before the fourth session of the House of Representatives. 

Leaders said that that top leaders would be asked to find a middle path on the issue. 

“It’s a sensitive issue that requires broader political consensus,” said NC Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma. Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajwadi Party have also called for broader consensus on the issue.

NC’s objection to the bill comes a day after Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa told SAC that the government would support the seven-year threshold if there is broader political consensus. The government had earlier proposed conferring Nepali citizenship to foreign brides immediately after she starts the process to relinquish her foreign citizenship. 

The proposal for seven-year threshold for naturalization had originally come from the ruling party lawmakers who had demanded the need of threshold just like in India, keeping in view the open border and the practice of cross-border marriages. 

The proposal also includes a provision to provide temporary identity cards to the brides during the threshold period.

“The marital identity card would warrant economic, social and cultural rights,” SAC Chair Shrestha said.

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