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Government tells chief district officers to grant citizenship by descent to those whose parents are citizens by birth

  • Though a positive step, rights advocates say the order doesn’t address all the problems with citizenship laws in the country
- TSERING D GURUNG , Kathmandu

Apr 3, 2019-

Amid uncertainty surrounding the passage of the Nepal Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Home Ministry has issued a notice to chief district officers across the country asking them to grant citizenship by descent to those individuals whose parents are citizens by birth.

According to Article 11(3) of the constitution, a child of a citizen having obtained the Nepali citizenship by birth shall acquire the citizenship of Nepal by descent if both mother and father are citizens of Nepal.

Despite the provision guaranteeing such individuals their right to citizenship by descent, district offices had halted processing such applications, following introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament last August.

The bill has, however, failed to make any headway, leaving the future of thousands of eligible citizens in limbo.

The notice issued by the ministry on Tuesday makes note of the repeated delay in finalising the bill and the subsequent impact it has had on individuals who have been denied citizenship.

“It is necessary to address the difficulties faced by those who, despite reaching eligible age, have not been able to receive their citizenship,” the notice states, highlighting how their situation has adversely affected their education and employment opportunities.

Addressing the chief district officers, the notice which has been signed by the Prime Minister’s Office, states: “If a person whose parents are citizens by birth applies for citizenship, he/she is entitled to citizenship by descent as per Nepal Citizenship Act 2006, Nepal Citizenship Rules 2006 and Citizenship Certificate Distribution Procedure Directive 2006 and as such should be granted citizenship upon completing due procedure.”

A senior official at the Home Ministry, who is familiar with the content of the letter, told the Post his office decided to issue the notice following uncertainty over the future of the bill.

“The bill has failed to pass in the past two sessions and we are not sure if it will be passed in the upcoming session too,” said the official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with journalists. “Hence, we decided to issue the notice because a lot of people have been suffering.”

The Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance, an organisation advocating for rights in Nepal, welcomed the ministry order, describing it as a positive step in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Children of individuals who obtained citizenship by birth have faced various hurdles in the past on the pretext of there not being clear legal provisions for them to receive citizenship and so they have restricted access to higher education, employment, and state services,” reads the statement.

While endorsing the government move, the statement also makes note of the fact that it does not address all problems concerning citizenship.

“There is no mention of children born to Nepali mothers receiving naturalised citizenship,” it notes.

Besides individuals whose parents are citizens by birth, many district offices have also not been processing applications of children whose mother is a Nepali citizen and father a foreign national, citing delay in enactment of the new law.

Last month, Kathmandu Chief District Officer Ram Prasad Acharya told the Post that his office was not accepting citizenship applications of those with foreign fathers and individuals whose father’s identity is unknown.

“We have no issue providing citizenship in the mother’s name to those individuals who can bring proof of their father’s identity or their grand father’s,” said Acharya. “But until the new bill is passed, we can’t process applications of those who have foreign father or whose father’s identity is unknown.”

Following its failure to reach consensus on the process of citizenship by naturalisation, the Good Governance and State Affairs Committee announced its decision to form a sub-committee to resolve debate over contentious provisions in the bill late last month. The sub-committee had been given a two-week deadline to submit its report. But it has been extended after the committee failed to meet and start any work.

Published: 04-04-2019 06:30

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