President Ram Chandra Paudel's recent decision to certify the Citizenship Amendment Bill has raised serious concerns about the constitutional integrity of his actions. By endorsing the bill in this manner, President Paudel not only set a dangerous precedent but also challenged the very constitution he is entrusted to protect. To understand the gravity of this situation, we must delve into the context. The issue first arose some seven months ago when the then-President Bidya Bhandari refused to authenticate the bill, despite it being repeatedly passed by parliament. It is crucial to note that the constitution mandates the president to authenticate any bill approved by both houses of parliament. Failure to do so is a clear violation of the constitution. While the constitution does not specify a time frame within which the president must act, this loophole was exploited by the former president. However, with President Bhandari having retired and Paudel assuming the presidency, a new parliament was elected in November 2022. In light of this, the appropriate course of action for President Paudel would have been to forward the pending bill to the new parliament and take necessary action when it is returned to him after both houses of the federal parliament endorse it.
It is unfortunate to note that influential leaders within the ruling alliance were behind exerting pressure on President Paudel to disregard the constitution and certify the bill. The constitution of Nepal is the bedrock of the country's institutional development under the Federal Democratic Republic system, and any attempt to undermine its provisions for political gains must be strongly discouraged. The government's request for the president to directly certify the Citizenship Bill was deeply problematic. We previously highlighted this issue in our editorial, emphasizing that such actions do not uphold the rule of law, a fundamental tenet of any democratic government. As a responsible newspaper, we firmly believe that the government should have registered the bill in parliament once again and followed the proper legislative process, allowing the newly-elected sovereign parliament to make the decision.
Needless to say, we all should be worried about those people who have failed to obtain citizenship certificates. However, amendments to the existing Citizenship Act should only be made through deliberations by the sovereign representatives elected by the people. It is essential to recognize that the Citizenship Act significantly impacts the lives of countless Nepalis and should never be exploited for political gains. The recent actions of President Paudel raise doubts about his ability to serve as the custodian of the constitution. His action has dragged the Office of the President itself into controversy. It is imperative for all those in positions of power to respect and uphold the constitution, which serves as the foundation of our democratic system. We hope to see President Paudel heed this and act in accordance with the constitutional provisions so that a similar violation of the constitution is not repeated.