Supreme Court orders halt on citizenship, complicating matters furtherA notice issued by the Home Ministry had outlined the uncertainty surrounding the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill and its impact on the individuals who have been denied citizenship.
The Supreme Court on Friday issued an interim order to stop granting citizenship by descent to the individuals whose parents obtained citizenship by birth in 1997, under the recommendation of a committee led by Jitendra Dev.
The 1997 committee had been formed as part of a drive to ease citizenship distribution, and had granted citizenship by birth to over 34,000 individuals living in the Tarai.
These citizenship certificates were later revoked by the Supreme Court in 2001, on grounds that the distribution process was illegal since the committee had no legal authority to issue citizenship.
Friday’s order, issued by a joint bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Purushottam Bhandari, was in response to a writ filed by advocate Born Bahadur Karki, who argued that despite the 2001 Supreme Court decision, the government had taken no action to cancel the invalid citizenship certificates. This, he said, had resulted in many individuals acquiring citizenship on an ‘invalid’ basis.
“Our argument is simple: citizenship by descent should not be granted to those whose parents’ citizenship has already been deemed invalid,” said Chandra Kanta Gyawali, an advocate with the petitioner’s team.
The issue has become more pertinent, the petitioner argued, following the recent Home Ministry’s order to grant citizenship by descent to those children whose parents obtained citizenship by birth.
A notice issued by the Home Ministry had outlined the uncertainty surrounding the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill and its impact on the 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 stated, emphasising how this had adversely affected their education and employment opportunities.
The Home Ministry’s order was immediately challenged in court by advocate Balkrishna Neupane, and on April 9, the court issued an interim order, asking chief district officers across the country to not implement the ministry’s circular.
But on April 17, a joint bench of Justices Hari Krishna Karki and Bam Kumar Shrestha overturned the previous order and upheld the ministry’s decision.
Friday’s order is expected to complicate things even more. While the interim order specifically halts the issuance of citizenship by descent to individuals whose parents’ citizenship were earlier revoked by the court, officials believe this may lead to district officers denying citizenship to even legitimate applicants in the absence of proper records and a mechanism for distinguishing such individuals.
“I don’t understand why they are trying to reignite a dead issue,” said Dipendra Jha, Chief Attorney of Province 2. “There’s no proper record of individuals whose citizenship have been revoked. This is something that will just create more problems and affect lots of people.”