The ruling coalition has concluded that the refusal of President Bidya Devi Bhandari to authenticate the Citizenship Bill that was resent to her by the House is unconstitutional.
President Bhandari refused to authenticate the bill after being passed by both Houses of Parliament for the second time as the 15-day deadline to authenticate the bill expired Tuesday midnight.
The top coalition leaders held a meeting Wednesday morning after President Bhandari’s refusal to authenticate the bill that she was constitutionally required to authenticate. The coalition issuing a statement has said that President Bhandari attacked the constitutional duty of complying with the Constitution and protecting it.
“This unconstitutional step of president has insulted and devalued the federal parliament elected by the people,” the joint statement issued by Nepali Congress (NC) President and Prime Minister (PM) Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kuamr Nepal and Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) Chairman Upendra Yadav states.
The coalition has also pointed that the president’s step has denied the constitutional rights for citizenship to hundreds of thousands of children of Nepali parents who have acquired citizenship certificates.
“This meeting concludes that the step has dealt a serious blow to the sovereign rights vested on the people by the Constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly, constitutional supremacy and basic norms and values of democratic system of governance,” the statement reads.
The coalition has also urged all the political parties, civil society, intelligentsia, media and the Nepali people who support the federal democratic constitutional provision to remain alert.
President Bhandari allowed the 15-day deadline to authenticate the bill expire Tuesday midnight. The president’s political advisor Lal Babu Yadav informed that the president refused to authenticate the Citizenship Bill in order to safeguard the Constitution. The president’s office, however, did not issue any notice regarding this.
The president is constitutionally required to authenticate any bill that is resubmitted by the House after sending it back to the House for reconsideration once.
"The Bill presented to the President for certification according to this Article, shall be certified within 15 days, and both the Houses shall be informed about that as early as possible," Article 113(2) of the Constitution says about authentication of bills.
However, Yadav said that Article 61(4) of the Constitution considers the president the guardian of the Constitution and President Bhandari has protected the Constitution by not authenticating the Citizenship Bill.
“It is stated in Article 61(4) that the main duty of the president shall be to abide by and protect the Constitution. This means protecting all articles of the Constitution. One cannot say by only looking at Article 113 that the president did not fulfill her constitutional responsibility,” Yadav told Setopati.
According to Yadav, President Bhandari did not authenticate the Citizenship Bill because it does not fully comply with the provisions in Part-2 of the Constitution, discriminates against women, and also does not make provision of single federal citizenship with provincial identity.
“Therefore this decision of the president is for the safeguarding of the Constitution,” he said.
Former president Ram Baran Yadav said that the president does not have the privilege of not authenticating a bill sent for a second time after being passed by both Houses of Parliament.
“[The president] must authenticate bills that are sent for authentication again after being returned for reconsideration once. As the guardian of the country, [she] may have some dissatisfaction. But compliance with constitutional provisions is binding,” he told Setopati.
President Bhandari on August 14 had returned the Citizenship Bill sent to her for authentication after being passed by both the House of Representatives (HoR) and the National Assembly. She had sent a seven-point message to inform the federal parliament and for deliberation, and another eight-point message for drawing attention.
Spokesperson at the President's Office Sagar Acharya issuing a statement had said that President Bhandari had sent back the bill to the HoR for reconsideration as per Article 113(3) of the Constitution.
"Except in the case of a Finance Bill, if the President is satisfied that reconsideration is necessary on a bill, the Bill may be sent back to the House where it originated with necessary information within 15 days of receiving the Bill," Article 113(3) of the Constitution says about exception to mandatory certification of bills sent to the president.
President Bhandari had mainly raised two issues while sending the bill back. She had mentioned that the bill was silent about the provision of naturalized citizenship through marriage as per Article 11(6) of the Constitution.
"If a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen so wishes, she may acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for in a Federal law," states Article 11(6) of the Constitution. President Bhandari had pointed that the Constitution clearly says federal law but the bill passed by the federal parliament did not have that provision.
She had also raised question about the provision requiring self-declaration by a woman to provide citizenship to her children.
She had also drawn the House's attention to other issues but had mainly asked the House to reconsider the two issues.
The bill does not propose any restrictions on foreigners marrying Nepali citizens while acquiring naturalized citizenship. The main opposition CPN-UML, to which Bhandari was affiliated before becoming president, has been protesting removal of the provision in the report submitted by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the HoR that required foreigners marrying Nepali citizens to wait for seven years to get naturalized citizenship.
The bill passed by the federal parliament also has a provision to grant citizenship by descent to the children of those who received citizenship by birth through a one-time arrangement after the Janaandolan II in 2006.
Citizenship by birth was granted to persons born in Nepal before mid-April 1990, and having permanent domicile and been continuously resident in Nepal throughout their life through the one-time arrangement.
The passed bill also allows citizenship to a person only through the name of mother but has put four conditions for that. The child should be born in Nepal, should be residing in Nepal, father should be unidentified and the person should make self-declaration that the father has not been identified for that.
The person taking the citizenship certificate can choose to take the surname and address of either the father or mother. The bill has also paved the way for non-resident citizenship to anyone living outside the SAARC countries if there is proof that the person's father/mother or grandfather/grandmother is/was a Nepali citizen.
President Bhandari had earlier authenticated an ordinance, sent by the then prime minister KP Sharma Oli after dissolving the House, that included similar provisions.