What is the new ordinance to amend Nepal Citizenship Act?

Written By: Saloni Murarka WION
Kathmandu, Nepal Published: May 30, 2021, 11:15 AM(IST)

Despite being a small nation, Nepal was never colonised by any country. It has always been a sovereign nation and served as a buffer state between Imperial China and British India in the past. So, Nepal does not have an Independence Day. Photograph:( ANI )

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Here is what you need to know about Nepal Citizenship Act 

On the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, President Bidya Devi Bhandari had earlier issued an ordinance to amend the Nepal Citizenship Act. Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Lilanath Shrestha believes the government has brought the ordinance on citizenship as per the constitution of Nepal and the order of the Supreme Court. 

Speaking to WION, Shrestha said, “As many as 45,000 applications was [sic] submitted seeking for citizenships but could not be processed as the law was not enacted as per the provisions of the constitution.” 

The ordinance, part of a continued demand of the Madhesh-based parties comes at a time when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is trying to win over the support of Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN).

The ordinance, however, neglects the call of other rights organisations that have demanded equality between a mother and a father in their eligibility to allow their children to become citizens of Nepal. 

What is in the Citizenship Ordinance? 

The ordinance will allow the children of citizens by birth and children of Nepali mothers to obtain Nepali Citizenship. Children of those citizens by birthright who have acquired their citizenship before September 20, 2015, will be able to obtain their citizenship by descent. Earlier, children of citizens were not able to obtain the same due to federal law.

Similarly, someone born in Nepal whose mother is a Nepali national and the father cannot be identified will be able to obtain citizenship by descent. However, if the father is a foreign national, the citizenship will be subject to dismissal. 

Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2006 allowed the granting of citizenship by birth to those who were born within the borders of Nepal and settled in Nepal till mid-April 1990. 

In the case of a child born to a Nepali woman citizen married to a foreign national, it is said that if the child has been residing in Nepal permanently and has not obtained foreign citizenship, the person can obtain neutralised citizenship in accordance with federal law. 

Earlier, those under the age of 16 could not get citizenship and there was no provision on how the children of citizens by birthright could acquire their citizenship. To address this issue, an amendment was made in Nepali Citizenship Act, paving way for children of those who obtained Nepali citizenship. 

What difference will it make? 

Lilanath Shrestha told WION that a huge problem has been solved. "People who have been living here since decades could not enjoy property rights or educational rights. The Supreme Court had ordered the government to make changes in the citizenship act and address the problems", Shrestha said.

The ordinance will pave way for a person born to a Nepali citizen mother and residing in Nepal and whose father cannot be identified to obtain the citizenship of descendent. The ordinance has made no amendment regarding the rights of neutralised citizenship. 

The constitution states that a foreign woman who marries a Nepali citizen can take the neutralised citizenship of Nepal according to law. 

Earlier, a parliamentary panel had proposed an amendment in Nepal's Citizenship Act under which they proposed that a foreign woman marrying a Nepali national would have to wait for seven years to get naturalised citizenship.

Opposition parties, especially the Janata Samajbadi Party criticised the proposal and said Madhesis are being discriminated against in Nepal’s diverse set up.

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