Dual passport could cost Lamichhane his political careerAct relating to House of Representatives formation makes one guilty of passport misuse unfit to contest elections.
The Supreme Court on Friday not just took away the posts of Rastriya Swatantra Party president, deputy prime minister and home minister from Rabi Lamichhane, it also opened the door for his criminal investigation.
After two days of hearing from the plaintiffs and defenders, the court’s Constitutional Bench on Friday scrapped his status as a member of the House of Representatives saying that he didn’t have valid Nepali citizenship.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has kept the home ministry with himself and Dol Prasad Aryal, who also is the minister for labour, employment and social security, has been appointed the RSP acting president and parliamentary party leader.
Amrit Kharel, a lawyer who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging the legality of Lamichhane’s citizenship in the Supreme Court, said Lamichhane should be investigated for misuse of citizenship and passport laws in addition to treason.
“He has committed serious crimes against the state by becoming the deputy prime minister and home minister even though he is not a Nepali citizen,” Kharel told the Post. “A criminal investigation must start immediately.”
Lamichhane in 1994 got Nepali citizenship by descent. Twenty years later, in March 2014, he acquired American Citizenship. As per the Citizenship Act, he automatically lost the Nepali citizenship after receiving American citizenship.
He came to Nepal in June 2014 and then in May next year. In May 2015, he acquired a Nepali passport by using the citizenship he got in 1994, even though the citizenship certificate had been automatically invalidated in March 2014.
One who receives or attempts to get a passport or travel documents by submitting false details can be fined Rs200,000 to half a million rupees and imprisoned for one to three years or both, as per section 21 of the Passport Act.
If Lamichhane is found guilty, he might be barred from electoral politics for life.
Section 13 of the Act relating to the House of Representatives formation makes a person guilty of misuse of passport ineligible to contest elections. There are similar provisions relating to National Assembly and provincial assembly elections.
Kharel said the police can start suo motu investigation against Lamichhane as the Supreme Court has clearly said the citizenship card he produced is invalid. His acquisition of a Nepali passport without first renouncing his American citizenship and using a copy of the (scrapped) citizenship issued in 1994 for official use can be used as a cause for criminal investigation.
Lawyers say that if the police don’t start investigating themselves, a petition can be filed at the Supreme Court seeking its ruling to direct the police for the investigation.
RSP leaders, however, say they believe Lamichhane can return to politics after getting citizenship by fulfilling the due legal process.
Clause 11 of the regulations to the Citizenship Act says the person who has renounced the foreign citizenship should submit an application to the Ministry of Home Affairs or the District Administration Office. Though Lamichhane in 2018 renounced his American citizenship, he didn’t apply to revive his Nepali citizenship.
Dol Prasad Aryal, acting RSP president, said there were no grounds to pursue a criminal case against Lamichhane.
“But you never know in this country!” Aryal told the Post. “We will challenge every allegation against him. Our future course of action will be decided at our central committee meeting on Sunday.”