Prime Minister (PM) Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said that the current controversy about the Citizenship Bill arose as the Constitution does not specify what happens to any bill sent to the president for authentication after completing due process if the president refuses to authenticate it.
“I have consulted constitutional experts not once or twice but multiple times in capacity of the prime minister in that situation. Some of them said that the Constitution should be brought to track by directly authenticating it while others said it should again be sent to the House. We then looked for origin of the bill and concluded that it was the government, and the government decided to inform the president about the bill,” PM Dahal has said answering questions raised by opposition lawmakers about his recent India visit and the Citizenship Bill in the House of Representatives (HoR) on Monday.
PM Dahal has stressed that the problem arose as the previous president violated the clear constitutional provision mandating the president to authenticate any bill sent after being passed by both the HoR and the National Assembly.
The Supreme Court (SC) has already issued a short-term interim order instructing the government to not implement the new Citizenship Act.
The bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Sharma hearing the writ petition filed by senior advocates Surendra Bhandari and Bal Krishna Neupane against authentication of the Citizenship Bill issued the short-term interim order on Sunday instructing the government to not immediately implement the new Citizenship Act and keep it as it is.
The SC also asked the government to explain the reasons for getting the bill authenticated, and summoned both the sides for discussion on the issue on June 9.
President Ram Chandra Paudel authenticated the bill to amend the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2063, on Wednesday.
A Cabinet meeting held on May 26 decided to request the president to authenticate the bill, which then president Bidya Devi Bhandari had refused to authenticate. Bhandari had not authenticated the bill even after the previous Parliament had passed it and sent it to her twice.
President Paudel had consulted constitutionalists and legal experts on the issue. Some experts had said that the previous bill could be authenticated while others had opined that a new bill should be brought as the previous one was already dead.
The case filed against then President Bhandari's refusal to authenticate the bill twice sent to her by the federal parliament is currently sub judice at the Supreme Court.
As per Article 113 (3) of the Constitution, the president can send back a bill passed by the federal parliament for reconsideration once.
“In case the President is of the opinion that any Bill, except a Money Bill, presented for authentication needs reconsideration, he or she may, within fifty days from the date of submission of such Bill, send back the Bill along with his or her message to the House in which the Bill originated,” it says about exception to mandatory certification of bills sent to the president.
However, Article 113 (4) requires the president to authenticate any bill sent for a second time after being passed by both Houses of Parliament.
“In case any Bill is sent back along with a message by the President, and both Houses reconsider and adopt such Bill as it was or with amendments and present it again, the President shall authenticate that Bill within fifteen days of such presentation,” it states.
The then President Bhandari refused to authenticate the bill violating that provision.
On August 14, she 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.
The then 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.
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.
Bhandari had earlier authenticated an ordinance, sent by the then prime minister KP Sharma Oli after dissolving the House, that included similar provisions.