President Bidya Devi Bhandari recently returned the Nepal Citizenship (First Amendment) Bill, 2022 endorsed by both Houses of Parliament. In her message to Parliament, Bhandari claimed that members of the House of Representatives’s State Affairs and Good Governance Committee (SAGC) had reached a consensus on its report on the proposed provisions to be included in the 2020 citizenship bill, which had passed and sent to the plenary meeting on June 21, 2020.
Nepal Check found that the parliamentary committee passed the report by a majority vote, not by consensus, as claimed by the president. Our fact-check also found that MPs from the opposition parties had submitted notes of dissent along with the report.
President Bhandari returned the bill to amend the Citizenship Act on August 14, 2022 saying that Parliament, which passed the bill on July 22, 2022, should review the document by addressing issues raised in her 15-point message. The message was divided into two sections.
The 6th point in Bhandari’s message states that it would be appropriate to discuss in Parliament the consensus report prepared by the HoR’s State Affairs and Good Governance Committee and tabled by Parliament in 2018. “It will be appropriate that the report on the amendment bill on the Citizenship Act tabled in 2018, which has been said to be agreed upon in the HoR’s State Affairs and Good Governance Committee, be discussed in the honourable House and presented to the sovereign people,” reads her message.
The amendment tabled in Parliament by the then KP Oli-led government in August 2018 was under discussion for about two years. On June 21, 2020, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee passed the bill along with its report. President Bhandari claimed that the parties reached a consensus over the report.
यो सत्यापन नेपालीमा पढ्नुस्
According to Rule 120 of the House of Representatives Rules (2018), a bill pending in Parliament should be discussed in the parliamentary committee concerned and the committee shall report to the House of Representatives through the chair of the committee.
The then KP Oli-led government registered the bill to amend the Citizenship Act 2006 in the House of Representatives on August 7, 2018. The bill was presented before the House of Representatives on August 13, 2018. The House meeting on August 20, 2018 decided to send the bill to the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee for clause-wise discussion, and the next day, the bill was sent to the committee. The bill remained with the committee for about two years from August 2018 to June 2020. (A timeline explains the key dates related to the bill.)
The report of the SAGC was passed by a majority vote on June 21, 2020, with the provision of a seven year waiting period for granting naturalised citizenship to women married to Nepali men. Shashi Shrestha, the chair of the committee, submitted the report to Parliament on June 23, 2020.
The report was passed by majority vote, not by consensus
According to the news published in The Kathmandu Post on June 22, 2020, the said report was passed by a majority vote. The then ruling Nepal Communist Party was in favour of the proposal and Nepali Congress, Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Janata Party had opposed it, according to the report in The Kathmandu Post.
The report clearly stated that provision of a seven-year “cooling period” in granting naturalised citizenship to women married to Nepali men was not passed unanimously. Parties in the opposition–the Nepali Congress, Rashtriya Janata Party, and Samajwadi Party–had opposed the proposed provision, according to the news report.
Similarly, according to a piece of news published on Nepal Live on June 10, 2022, the then main opposition party, the Nepali Congress as well as Rashtriya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party, and Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party were against the seven-year rule.
However, we couldn’t find a copy of the note of dissent presented by Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party.
Presenting the report of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee before a meeting of Parliament on June 23, 2020, the then-committee chair Shashi Shrestha said member lawmakers failed in their efforts to reach a consensus. Shrestha said even though efforts were made at the level of the top leaders, they couldn’t agree on the contents of the report. She said, “Despite trying until the end to reach a consensus, the committee could not reach a consensus. Finally, the committee passed the report on the bill to amend the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2006 through a democratic process and all other matters unanimously, with differing opinions of some honourable members of the committee.” The bone of contention among the parties was the seven-year period provision. They had agreed on provisions related to the granting of citizenship to non-resident Nepalis and abrogating clause 4 of the act.
Note of dissent on the report
When the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee convened to discuss its report, lawmakers from the ruling and the opposition party were already divided over the provision of a seven-year cooling period for a foreign woman married to a Nepali man to receive naturalised citizenship. However, following a majority vote, a new provision was added to sub-section two of section four of the bill (along with the report) to make the seven-year wait period mandatory.
According to this provision, in order to obtain naturalised citizenship, an applicant must submit a copy of recommendation from the respective ward office, as well as the certificate of marriage registration, and evidence of initiating the procedure to renounce one’s foreign citizenship.
Along with this, a new provision requiring a permanent residence permit before granting naturalised citizenship was added. In places where citizenship is required, a permanent residence permit can be used, with the applicant granted social, cultural, and economic rights (except for political rights). Political rights include the right to vote, and economic rights include the right to buy property, trade, and do business. Similarly, rights to study, register personal events such as birth, death, migration and marriage, come under socio-cultural rights.
The Nepali Congress, Rashtriya Janata Party, and Samajwadi Party had objected to the proposed seven-year wait period provision in the bill report prepared by the committee. Brijesh Kumar Gupta, a Member of Parliament elected using the CPN-UML’s election symbol, had expressed dissent personally.
According to the records from the Parliament Secretariat, in its note of dissent, the Nepali Congress claimed that the provisions on naturalised citizenship in the original Act were made on the basis of all-party consensus. The NC also called for continuing the provisions in the main Act. “It is the institutional opinion of the Nepali Congress that the proposed bill should be amended as per the provisions of the Nepal Citizenship Act 2063 ,” reads the party’s statement.
The Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Party had expressed their objections in a joint letter. Except for the names of the parties, the text issued reads the same.
In August 2018, the bill tabled in the House of Representatives was discussed in the parliamentary committee, and efforts were made to reach a consensus. Although there was a consensus on other issues, the provision related to naturalised citizenship for foreign women married to Nepali men had not been agreed upon. That is why the report of the committee was passed by a majority vote rather than by consensus.
Therefore, President Bhandari’s claim that members of the SAGC prepared a consensus report in 2020 on the citizenship amendment bill is false.
|Claim||Claimed by||Nepal Check Verdict|
|The State Affairs Committee prepared a consensus report on the Citizenship Amendment Bill registered in Parliament in 2018||President Bidya Devi Bhandari||False|
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