The Supreme Court (SC) verdict revoking Rastriya Swatantra Party Chairman Rabi Lamichhane's post of lawmaker has paved the way for investigation on allegations against him of acquiring a Nepali passport submitting false details.
The police investigation about the issue was stopped once Lamichhane became home minister.
The brief SC verdict on his citizenship controversy on Friday did not mention about the issue of passport. Legal experts have said that the constitutional bench may not have spoken about the issue as the main issue of the writ petitions was his ineligibility for becoming House of Representatives (HoR) member as he is not a Nepali citizen.
"Lamichhane had already lost moral grounds as he became home minister despite the controversy about citizenship and passport. The state must now resume the investigation about his passport that was stopped," constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya told Setopati.
The Home Ministry had received complaint requesting investigation on Lamichhane's citizenship and passport immediately after the recent election. The Home Ministry then wrote to the District Administration Office, Kathmandu to investigate the matter.
Police started investigation into Lamichhane’s citizenship and passport controversy on December 2, 2022 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.
The investigation, however, was stopped after he became home minister.
The petitioners including advocate Rabi Raj Basaula had also raised the issue of Lamichhane's Nepali passport acquired on the basis of invalid citizenship during the hearing by the constitutional bench in the case of his ineligibility to become lawmaker. But a verdict on the issue of passport was not the main demand of petitioners.
The constitutional bench including Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki, and Justices Bishwambhar Shrestha, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha, however, had also asked questions about Lamichhane's passport. Lamichhane's lawyers replied that they will not argue about the issue as the matter was under investigation.
"This petitipn is about his citizenship and the issue that he is ineleigible to become HoR member. I won't go toward the issue of passport. Investigation may reveal things," Lamichhane's lawyer Narendra Gautam told the constitutional bench on Friday.
"You have touched the issue of citizenship," Justice Khatiwada stated after Gautam spoke. "Are Lamichhane acquiring US citizenship, acquiring a Nepali passport in 2015 using an invalid Nepali citizenship and renouncing his US passport in 2018 established facts?"
Khatiwada then asked, "Can one acquire passport by submitting an invalid Nepali citizenship?"
Gautam repeated that the issue was not related to the petitions and what had happened would be known only after investigation.
Lamichhane had acquired his citizenship from the District Administration Office, Kathmandu in 1994 according to the details submitted to the SC. He had acquired US citizenship in 2014 after he started to stay in America.
He started to host 'Sidha kura janata sanga' (direct talk with the people) after he returned to Nepal on a 'relative visa'. He seems to have acquired a Nepali passport in 2015 using the invalid Nepali citizenship. It is, in this way, established that he knowingly carried US and Nepali passports at the same time.
There was a controversy five years back that he has been working in Nepali despite being here on a 'relative visa'. The Press Council Nepal had even initiated action against him. He then applied with the US Embassy in Nepal on May 19, 2018 to renounce US citizenship.
He also applied with the Department of Immigration under the Home Ministry on June 20, 2018 to update his record after applying with the US Embassy. The US Embassy provided letter approving his renunciation on June 28.