KATHMANDU, April 17: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the government the go-ahead for issuing citizenship by descent to the offspring of those who were given citizenship by birth under a special one-time decision taken some 12 years ago.
A division bench of justices Hari Krishna Karki and Bam Kumar Shrestha issued the go-ahead following hearings on Tuesday. Stating that the constitutional provision concerning the matter was clear, the justices said there was no need to hold up the distribution of citizenship to the eligible.
On April 9, the apex court, in response to a public interest litigation filed by senior advocate Balkrishna Neupane, issued a stay order on the citizenship distribution and summoned the authorities for hearings on whether or not to extend the stay order.
Law practitioners representing the petitioner had sought a continuation of the stay order, stating that the country may see the population of citizens swell by millions if citizenship certificates are distributed on the basis of a government circular, and that the circular itself was unconstitutional.
Attorneys arguing for the government stated that thousands would suffer if citizenship was not distributed, and that those eligible for the citizenship should not be deprived in this fashion.
Senior advocate Neupane had challenged the Home Ministry's circular directing the authorities in all 77 district to provide the certificates for citizenship by descent.
On April 4, the Ministry of Home Affairs had issued a circular to all district administration offices to issue citizenship by descent to the offspring of those who obtained citizenship by birth as a bill to amend the Citizenship Act was still making its way through parliament. The circular stated that the individuals concerned have been facing difficulties in their education and careers for lack of the citizenship certificates.
Distribution of citizenship to the offspring of those possessing citizenship by birth stalled after November 2008 as such citizenship was distributed only under the "special decision” of the government taken in 2006.
The government at the time provided citizenship by birth to those born in the territory of Nepal and living within the country once they were recommended for such citizenship by any three Nepali citizens.
According to official records at the Home Ministry, altogether 190,726 individuals had obtained citizenship by birth based on the special decision.
At the time, the government had said that the children of those obtaining citizenship by birth should apply for their own citizenship within the next two years.