Government proposes national identity cards to end contention over naturalised citizenshipRuling party backs the proposal to issue ID cards until citizenship is granted, but the opposition Nepali Congress has sought time to reach a decision.
The government has proposed seven years to grant naturalised citizenship to a foreign woman married to a Nepali man, and a national identity card after marriage to ensure social, economic and cultural rights until a citizenship is issued.
The woman, however, will be denied political rights like voting or contesting elections until she acquires naturalised citizenship. According to the constitution, naturalised citizens are eligible for all government positions, except the president, vice-president, prime minister, provincial governor and chief minister.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday floated the new proposal as the Parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee has struggled with forging consensus on naturalised citizenship even a year after a bill to amend the Citizenship Act was registered in Parliament.
Since August last year, the House committee has held 139 meetings but has failed to find a meeting point. According to the existing provision, any woman married to Nepali man is immediately eligible for naturalisation once she provides evidence of having initiated the process to renounce her foreign citizenship.
The amendment bill, however, includes a provision that if the woman cannot provide evidence of her citizenship of origin having been abandoned, her naturalised citizenship will be revoked. Lawmakers from the Tarai are standing against the provision, demanding the continuation of the one in the existing Act.
“It is unconstitutional to change the existing provisions on naturalised citizenship,” said Nepali Congress lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh.
Others, however, are in favour of at least a few years before issuing naturalised citizenship. Lawmakers from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) want seven years, the same period as in India. As the committee couldn’t decide on the matter, a subcommittee led by NCP lawmaker Bijay Subba was tasked with finding a solution. However, the panel submitted its report last month without any progress in forging consensus.
With the committee failing to find a solution, the Home Ministry forwarded a proposal to issue a national identity card until a woman receives naturalised citizenship.
The ministry, however, has proposed 15 years to issue citizenship to a foreign man married to a Nepali woman. Any man wanting to acquire Nepali citizenship should also renounce his citizenship of origin, have good moral character, and must speak one of Nepal’s national languages.
During Friday’s meeting, committee chairperson Shashi Shrestha wanted to start discussions on the government’s proposal, but opposition lawmakers refused. “We need time to study the proposal. Such sensitive matters must not be dealt with in a hurry,” Nepali Congress lawmaker Dilendra Badu told the meeting.
As the budget session of Parliament will be prorogued within a week, the House committee wants to table the bill within a couple of days for endorsement. “We have to conclude the discussion on the bill within a few days,” Shrestha told the meeting.
The House will discuss the ministry’s proposal on Saturday. Contentious provisions in the bill will be decided through a vote if parties once again fail to find a meeting point.