National

‘Discourage the use of diplomatic passports’

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

A number of diplomatic missions in Kathmandu have urged the government not to issue diplomatic notes to parliamentarians and the likes for obtaining travel permit through diplomatic passport even for personal programmes.


At a recent meeting of the International Relations Committee of the Legislature Parliament, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said cases of embassies not issuing visas to those submitting diplomatic passports for personal and general trips was on the rise recently.


“Embassies in general do not issue visa in a red (diplomatic) passport unless the Foreign Ministry writes a note,” Gyawali said.


Foreign missions have repeatedly requested the government not encourage the use of passport having diplomatic privileges.


The committee discussed this issue at the meeting after several lawmakers were miffed with provision in the draft bill of Passport Act. Most are concerned by the Article 6 of the proposed Act that states the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would issue diplomatic passport to those travelling abroad for government work in line with the recommendation made by concerned ministry, constitutional bodies or secretariat.   


Eight lawmakers have filed amendment proposal in the bill tabled at the parliament. Devendra Raj Kadel, Bharat Kumar Shah, Amresh Kumar Singh and Bhimsen Das Pradhan have urged revision of Article 6.


Singh and Pradhan have urged addition of a sentence that states members of House of Representatives and National Assembly should get diplomatic passports on submission of federal parliament identity card or certificate validating their election victory.


Shah and Kadel have demanded removal of Article 16 of the draft bill that prescribes usage of diplomatic passport.


The current Passport Act entitles diplomatic passports to the following office bearers:- President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers, Opposition Leader, Vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, State Minister, Vice chancellors of state institutions, Judges of Supreme Court, Chief and members of  the Constitutional Council, Attorney General, Chief Secretary, Chief of the Army staff, Chief Justices of High Courts, Members of the NPC, and Central Bank governor.


Department of Passports Director General Ram Kaji Khadka told the Post the draft bill upholds the spirit of current practice of issuing diplomatic passport.


“This is not something new. We are following the same procedure,” said Khadka. “Parliamentarians have demanded amending the provision to seek easy access to such passports.”


According to Khadka, the US Embassy in Nepal has made several such requests. Japan has sent back a number of Nepali leaders including Nepali Congress Central Committee member Pradeep Poudel, Nepal Communist Party leader Devi Gyawali, CPN-Revolutionary Maoist leader CP Gajurel and Naya Shakti Party leader Kumar Poudel from their immigration in the past.


Foreign Ministry issues diplomatic passport to those eligible with validity aligned with their service tenure, said Khadka.


Al participants travelling with the President or the Prime Minister during their foreign visits receive diplomatic passports with seven months validity.


“Such participants are subjected to return those passports within couple of days or weeks after returning,” said Khadka.


Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi said the draft bill has only tried to codify the provisions mentioned in the Passport Regulation.


“We have come up with such provision following increasing trend of misuse of red passports,” said Bairagi. “Foreign Ministry will provide lawmakers with red passports for their important foreign visits.”


The Foreign Secretary added that the proposed law has been drafted keeping in mind international practice and notified the committee that the diplomatic passport does not necessarily ensure a visa.


The draft law according to officials attempts to curb misuse of diplomatic passport by unauthorised person to obtain visa as the red travel documents are distinguished from the official and ordinary passports. There have been some incidents in the past of MPs “selling” diplomatic passports for millions of rupees apiece.

Published: 2018-09-09 07:47:07