On August 18, 2022, the House of Representatives (HoR) convened to reconsider the Bill to Amend the Citizenship Act 2063 BS returned it for reconsideration by the president on August 14, 2022.

Taking part in a heated debate that lasted for several hours, Dr Minendra Rijal, an MP from the ruling Nepali Congress Party, criticised the opposition party for arguing that the president was right to return the bill. With citizenship becoming a politically charged issue a head of the parliamentary elections in November, Rijal also criticised the opposition for claiming that a constitutional provision didn’t allow the president any other option but to promulgate an ordinance to amend the Citizenship Act that was sent to her by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s cabinet on May 23, 2021.

Let’s look at what Rijal said.

You dissolve Parliament, bring [the bill that was being debated in parliament] an ordinance, and argue that the president doesn’t have the right to return an ordinance by misinterpreting the [constitutional] provision that states that [upon receipt of a bill from Parliament] the president may take immediate action. Let’s not tell such lies.
What kind of a [political] system are you talking about while insisting that the president has the power to return [the bill] duly endorsed by Parliament, but not an ordinance sent to the president after dissolving Parliament and ending parliamentary accountability? What type of a democratic system are you talking about?

Minendra rijal

Rijal implicitly claims that the president has the power to return an ordinance sent to her by the Council of Ministers.

Nepal Check has fact-checked Rijal’s claim.

First, let us look at the timeline involving the bill and the ordinance that Rijal refers to in his statement.

  • On August 7, 2018, Prime Minister KP Oli’s government tabled the Bill to Amend the Citizenship Act 2063 BS in Parliament.

  • On August 14, 2018, the House sent the bill to the Public Affairs and Good Governance Committee for clause-wise discussion.

  • Member MPs could not reach a consensus on some of the contentious issues. A key issue of contention was whether to keep a waiting period (none to 15 years) for a foreign woman who weds a Nepali man before granting her naturalised citizenship.

  • On June 21, 2020, the committee sent the bill back to the HoR plenary for approval after deciding in favour of a seven-year wait period through a majority vote, with the then ruling party MPs (now associated with the CPN-UML and the CPN Maoist Centre) voting in favour and the then opposition party MPs belonging to the Nepali Congress, Samajwadi Party Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal voting against it. 

  • On May 21, 2021, Prime Minister Oli recommended President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolve the HoR which she promptly complied with within hours.

  • On May 23, 2021, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s cabinet recommended the President issue an ordinance, “Nepal Citizenship (First Amendment), Ordinance, 2078 BS”. President Bhandari issued the ordinance on the same day. The ordinance did not have the seven-year provision.

  • On June 10, 2021, the Supreme Court issued an interim order to the government not to implement the Citizenship Amendment Ordinance saying that the distribution of citizenship certificates based on the controversial ordinance could lead to long-term implications if the ordinance  isn’t endorsed by Parliament later.

  • On July 5, 2022, a Council of Ministers meeting decided to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill, originally registered in Parliament on August 7, 2018, and register a new one by removing at least one controversial provision, according to a report published by The Kathmandu Post.

  • On July 22, 2022, the HoR passed the Bill to Amend the Citizenship Act, 2063 BS.

  • On July 28, the National Assembly passed the bill after deliberation.

  • On July 31, 2022, the speaker sent the bill to the president for authentication.

  • On August 14, 2022, the president returned the bill to Parliament for reconsideration.

Now, let’s look at the constitutional provision related to the  presidential approval of a bill passed by the legislature.

Article 113 of the constitution has provisions related to the authentication of bills. Sub-Article 2 of the article states that:

A bill presented to the president for his or her authentication in accordance with this article shall be authenticated within fifteen days, and both Houses shall be informed thereof as soon as possible.

Sub-Article 3, states that “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 a bill, send back the bill along with his or her message to the House in which the bill originated.”

It is clear from this provision that the president can return non-money bills such as the Bill to Amend Citizenship Act 2063 BS.

Now, let’s look at the constitutional provision related to the presidential approval of an ordinance.

Article 114 contains provisions related to the issuance of an ordinance. It states that:
(1) In case, at any time, except when both Houses of the Federal Parliament are in session, circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, the president may, on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, promulgate an Ordinance.

The ordinance promulgated thus shall have the same force and effect as an act, provided that every such ordinance shall be tabled at the session of both Houses of the Federal Parliament held after the promulgation, and in case it is not adopted by both Houses, it shall, ipso facto, cease to be effective. It also states that the ordinance promulgated may be repealed at any time by the president, and shall, unless rendered ineffective or repealed, cease to be effective at the expiration of sixty days after the day on which a meeting of both Houses is held. 

It is clear from Article 114 that there is no provision for the President to return an ordinance. The President can withhold an ordinance for an indefinite time as there is no deadline to do so, unlike the 15-day deadline outlined in Article 113 to authenticate bills sent by Parliament. 

But that’s not what Rijal said. Therefore, his claim that President Bhandari can return an ordinance just as she can return a bill passed by Parliament is false.

ClaimClaimed byNepal Check Verdict
President can return an ordinance just as he or she can return a bill passed by Parliament.

Nepali Congress lawmaker Minendra RijalFalse
Nepal Check verdict on Nepali Congress MP Minendra Rijal’s claim that president can return an ordinance to Parliament.