The final hearing in the case about citizenship controversy of Rastriya Swatantra Party Chairman Rabi Lamichhane will continue on Friday.
The constitutional bench including Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki, and Justices Bishwambhar Shrestha, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha started final hearing in the petitions against Lamichhane on Wednesday.
The final hearing will continue on Friday as pleadings of Lamichhane’s lawyers and government attorneys did not finish on Wednesday. Lawyers of petitioners made their arguments before that.
The constitutional hearing petitions against Lamichhane on January 6 had refused to issue interim order sought by the petitioners. The SC, however, prioritized the case and set the date for the final hearing.
The constitutional bench on December 21, 2022 had only issued a show cause notice and refused to issue an interim order, paving the way for Lamichhane to take the oath as lawmaker. He was subsequently appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister on December 26.
The bench had summoned both parties for a hearing on January 6 to determine whether to issue an interim order on the petition or not. He would have lost the posts of lawmaker and minister if an interim order had been issued.
Advocate Yuvaraj Paudel, Rabiraj Basaula and others had filed the writ petition at the apex court 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.
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.
(Correction: The final hearing will continue on Friday and not as erroneously reported earlier)