Rastriya Swatantra Party Chairman and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane has told the Supreme Court (SC) that he need not reacquire Nepali citizenship and it automatically becomes valid as he did not renounce his Nepali citizenship.
Advocate Yuvaraj Paudel, Rabiraj Basaula and others had filed writ petitions at the SC demanding that Lamichhane not be allowed to take the oath as a member of the House of Representatives (HoR) as his citizenship and passport were in controversy.
Lamichhane was elected to the HoR from Chitwan-2 in the November 20 elections. He faces allegations of not relinquishing his Nepali citizenship while obtaining US citizenship and of continuing to use his old Nepali citizenship even after giving up US citizenship. He had also allegedly obtained a Nepali passport while still holding a US passport.
The constitutional bench including Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki, and Justices Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, Anil Kumar Sinha and Prakash Man Singh Raut hearing petitions against Lamichhane on January 6 refused to issue interim order sought by the petitioners but had sought written response from Lamichhane.
He has presented his own interpretation of section 11 of the Nepal Citizenship Rules regarding procedures for resumption of citizenship of Nepal in his written response. “If any person who has renounced the citizenship of Nepal pursuant to Section 11 of the Act and gone abroad intends to acquire the citizenship of Nepal again, such a person shall have to make an application, in the format referred to in Schedule-11, accompanied by a proof showing the renunciation of foreign citizenship, to the Ministry or the concerned Chief District Officer that has previously issued the certificate of citizenship to that person,” section 11(1) of the rules states.
He has argued that he need not apply in that manner and his Nepali citizenship should automatically become valid as he did not renounce Nepali citizenship, and has added that he cannot apply as per schedule 11 saying he had gone abroad renouncing his citizenship and wants to get the citizenship reinstated furnishing false details.
He has also claimed that the rules do not contain provision clearly specifying the procedure for reacquiring Nepali citizenship.
He has revealed in his written response that he had acquired US citizenship in 2014 and renounced it in 2018. He has elaborated that he applied with the US Embassy in Nepal on May 19, 2018 to renounce US citizenship, and the US Embassy provided letter approving his renunciation a month later.
He has pointed that he applied with the Department of Immigration under the Home Ministry to update his record after applying with the US Embassy, and argued that his Nepali citizenship should be considered reinstated on the day he registered the documents/evidence regarding his renunciation of US citizenship.
Police started investigation into Lamichhane’s citizenship and passport controversy on December 2 after the District Administration Office, Kathmandu wrote to the District Police Range, Kathmandu to investigate the matter.
The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) also instructed the Home Ministry and the Foreign Ministry to investigate Lamichhane’s citizenship and passport.
According to Ukeraa.com, Lamichhane has been using the Nepali citizenship he had obtained in 1993. He does not appear to have given up his Nepali citizenship even after acquiring US citizenship. One’s Nepali citizenship becomes invalid as soon as one acquires foreign citizenship. Anyone acquiring foreign citizenship must renounce their Nepali citizenship first. But Lamichhane is found to have obtained a Nepali passport on the basis of his invalid citizenship in 2015 itself.
Lamichhane had filed candidacy for the November 20 elections using his old citizenship certificate. A complaint was filed against him on this issue at the Election Commission. Voting had already taken place by the time the Commission sought clarification from him on the matter. Another complaint was filed against him at the Home Ministry after that.
The Home Ministry had written to the Kathmandu district administration after receiving the complaint.
If the investigation finds that Lamichhane had obtained a Nepali passport before renouncing his foreign citizenship, he could be fined and imprisoned.
The law has also prescribed punishment for anyone who obtains or tries to obtain a passport or travel permit by providing false information.
According to Section 21 (a) of the Passport Act 2076, one cannot obtain a passport by providing false information. If one does so, they could be fined Rs 200,000 to Rs 500,000 or jailed for one to three years or both as per Section 22 of the Act.