Citizenship bill hurled back at the President for final approvalCan’t say how long she’ll sit on it, President’s adviser says.
Speaker Agni Sapkota sent the amendment bill on the Citizenship Act to the President’s Office on Monday after both the houses of the federal parliament passed it for the second time without any change.
With both the houses endorsing the bill without any change despite her concerns on some provisions, President Bidya Devi Bhandari now has 15 days to authenticate it.
“Officials of the House of Representatives have presented the bill at the President’s Office today,” said Gopal Nath Yogi, secretary for the House of Representatives.
President Bhandari had returned the bill sent to her for authentication to the lower house on August 14 along with a 15-point suggestion expressing concerns over seven of its provisions.
As per the Article 133 (3) of the Constitution, Bhandari had returned the bill to the House of its origin with suggestions but she will have to authenticate the bill within 15 days after it is endorsed, with or without change, as per the Article 133(4).
However, the House of Representatives passed the bill after discussing it for a single day on August 18 through majority votes. Of the total 195 lawmakers present, 135 had voted in favour while 60 had voted against it.
Once the House of Representatives passed the bill she returned without even discussing her concerns, President Bhandari had consulted top leaders of major political parties including the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and had expressed her dissatisfaction saying they did not even bother to discuss her suggestions.
However, party leaders who attended the meeting with her said they all agree with the concerns raised by the President but they had nonetheless pushed ahead with the ‘essential’ bill provisions.
The leaders including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the president of the Nepali Congress, had also informed the President that all her concerns would be addressed by the new parliament to be formed after the November 20 polls.
Following Bhandari’s concerns Home Minister Balkrishna Khand had proposed the National Assembly to send the bill to its thematic committee for discussion.
The National Assembly had forwarded it to the Legislative Management Committee but as the majority of its members were from the ruling coalition it was returned to the full house without change.
On Friday, the upper house also endorsed the bill, as it is, after two days of discussions before it was sent to the lower house.
“The National Assembly returned the Citizenship Bill to the lower house as soon as it was endorsed,” said Rajendra Phuyal, secretary of the National Assembly.
On Sunday, the secretary of the House of Representatives Yogi presented the bill at the full house.
Now, with the Speaker sending her the bill for the second time, President Bhandari has 15 days to authenticate it.
Due to the delay in amending the Citizenship Act-2006, a large number of people whose parents had received citizenship by birth in 2007 have been suffering as they are deprived from getting education, employment, driving licence and even a phone sim card.
Once the bill is authenticated, around 400,000 such people, as estimated by the Home Minister, will get citizenship by descent.
Tika Dhakal, expert advisor to the President on information and communication, said the amendment bill on Citizenship Act has been registered at the President’s Office.
“The President is looking into it,” Dhakal told the Post. “She will use the time she has got. Can’t say how long she will take for authentication.”