Nepal Government gets five days to forge consensus on citizenship bill

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KATHMANDU, JUNE 17

The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives gave the government five days to forge consensus on the citizenship bill after Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa sought time for the same.

Chair of SAGGC Shashi Shrestha told THT, “We wanted to pass this bill last year but could not do so because often parties asked for more time to forge consensus and the same thing is happening now,” Shrestha said.

She wants the bill to be passed in the current budget session of the Parliament. Passage of this bill is crucial also because many children of citizens by birth have not been able to obtain citizenship due to delay in the enactment of the new citizenship law.

Ruling party lawmakers’ proposal to grant citizenship on the basis of matrimonial relations only after seven years has divided the parties in the panel. The main opposition Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal are opposed to the ruling party’s proposal.

The original bill that the government had registered in the House stipulated that foreign women married to Nepali men could get citizenship on the basis of matrimonial relations if they can submit proof within six months of their marriage that they had renounced their country’s citizenship.

JSP-N lawmaker Rajendra Mahato, who is a member of the panel, said his party was in favour of continuing with current provisions whereby foreign women married to Nepali men could obtain naturalised citizenship the moment they informed the district administration office that they had renounced their country’s citizenship.

Mahato said the SAGGC sub-committee proposed that foreign women married to Nepali men should be granted naturalised citizenship on the basis of matrimony only seven years after their marriage to Nepali citizens.

Mahato said the bill’s provision was unfair as it would deprive Indian women married to Nepali men from enjoying political rights. “There is a proposal for issuing permanent residence card to foreign women married to Nepali men during the waiting period, but that can help these women enjoy only economic, social and cultural rights, but not political rights,” Mahato said.

Nepali women married to Indian men immediately get ration cards on the basis of which they can obtain passport and other vital identity documents, can enrol their names in the voter list. Nepali women can also invoke Nepal-India Treaty of Peace and Friendship-1950 to enjoy rights almost on a par with Indian citizens, Mahato argued.

NC lawmaker Dilendra Prasad Badu, who is a member of the SAGGC told THT that his party was in favour of retaining the existing provision regarding matrimonial naturalisation because the constitution did not impose restrictions on foreign women married to Nepali men apart from those listed in Article 289 of the constitution.

“Article 11 (6) of the constitution stipulates that a foreign woman married to a Nepali man may, if she so wishes, acquire naturalised citizenship of Nepal as provided for in the Federal law. This means the government must grant citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali men,” Badu argued.

He said according to the spirit of Article 289 of the constitution, foreign women married to Nepali men could obtain Nepali citizenship and even contest elections, but were barred from holding certain posts.

He said if foreign women married to Nepali men were required to wait for seven years to obtain citizenship, then that could create other problems for those women and their children.

“In our country one has to show citizenship even for opening a small business. In that case they might not be able to get passport during the waiting period and if they divorced their husbands before getting Nepali citizenship, then their children might face difficulties in obtaining citizenship,” Badu added.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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