KATHMANDU, July: 4 The citizenship certificate is the proof given to you by the state that you are a Nepali citizen. The constitution states that no Nepali citizen shall be deprived of the right to acquire citizenship. Yet, thousands of Nepali citizens have not received their citizenship certificates. It is not yet clear when the government will provide citizenship certificates to these citizens by drafting the necessary laws.
After parliament passed the bill related to the annual budget for the coming fiscal year 2022/23, endorsing the other bills pending for a long time in parliament should have been the agenda of the House, but it is not known yet when the citizenship bill will be on the agenda, said a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the House of Representatives.
Citizenship is vital for citizens as it helps them to enjoy even the basic civil rights guaranteed by law such as acquiring education, doing business and identifying themselves as the citizens of Nepal. Citizenship is mandatory for various activities such as acquisition and transfer of property including house and land, obtaining a passport, voting rights, opening a bank account etc. According to the Constitution of Nepal, there are four types of citizenship which are citizenship based on descent, citizenship based on birth, naturalized citizenship, and honorary citizenship.
The government has been talking about moving the Citizenship Bill forward in parliament right after the announcement of the local elections. But it has been unable to do so, so far. It has come out that Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand has been holding continuous discussions with political parties and other stakeholders to forge a common stance on the contentious issues of the Citizenship Bill submitted to parliament by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House. Home Minister Khand also said that the issue of citizenship is being discussed at a high level in the meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee .
Experts say that citizenship should be given after seriously studying all aspects. According to a source, the government has already drafted the Citizenship Bill 2063 BS to table it in parliament. However, even though it was said that the bill would be passed on the strength of the ruling five-party alliance, no agreement has been reached within the ruling five parties. At this time, the Nepali Congress, the Maoist Center, the Unified Socialist, the Madhesh-centric Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) are together.
The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee had taken almost two years to resolve the contentious issues of the bill. A meeting of the House of Representatives on August 21, 2018 had made an amendment to the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2063 BS to the Public Administration Committee for discussion. The bill was tabled in the House of Representatives on 7 August, 2018 and was discussed on August 14.
Similarly, it was sent to the state affairs committee on 21 August, 2018 after the parliamentarians made comprehensive and important amendments during the amendment process. After extensive discussion in the committee, the report was submitted to parliament on 23 June, 2020. A total of 54 lawmakers from 23 registration groups had filed amendment proposals to the 14-point bill. The committee had discussed the Citizenship Bill in 34 meetings from 5 October 2018 to 21 June 2020.
A sub-committee was also formed under the coordination of UML lawmaker Vijay Subba, a member of the State Affairs Committee, to reach consensus on the contentious issues of the bill. The sub-committee failed to reach consensus on the main issues after holding nine meetings and sent the issues back to the committee. The committee prepared to discuss the main issue at the top level, but when it was not possible, it was put to a vote.
By the decision of the majority, the State affairs Committee has made a new provision in Article 5 of the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2063 BS regarding foreign women marrying Nepali citizens. The source said that if a foreign woman who is married to a Nepali citizen wants to take the citizenship of Nepal, she can get the naturalized citizenship of Nepal if she has been married and has resided in Nepal for seven consecutive years.
Arrangements were made to issue permanent residence permits to women who have been married for up to seven years to enjoy economic, social and cultural rights. The Nepali Congress (NC) had said that a foreign woman who marries a Nepali man should be able to get citizenship if she wants.
At present the children of naturalized citizens and citizens by birth are deprived of citizenship certificates. The lawmakers have repeatedly raised their voices in the House saying that they are facing problems as they are not allowed to study, get a job, go abroad for employment, run their own business and open a bank account. The government does not seem to have listened to the voices of the parliamentarians.