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President suggests revision to citizenship bill, sends back to parliament

President Bidya Devi Bhandari attends the Basanta Shrawan ritual, in Kathmandu, on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Kathmandu, August 14

In what seems a conflict with the government, President Bidya Devi Bhandari has returned the citizenship bill endorsed by both houses of the parliament, calling the legislative for a revision.

Whereas the constitution requires the head of the state to either endorse or send back any bill in 15 days, President Bhandari made the negative move on the 14th day of receiving the draft law of the citizenship bill.

The second amendment to the Citizenship Act was aimed at addressing concerns of the Madhesh-centric parties and the Non-resident Nepali Association. However, it was drawn into controversy citing the citizenship bill did not bar foreign women marrying Nepali men from getting citizenship easily.

Self-claimed nationalist activists had expressed concerns that loose citizenship provisions in Nepal could give the dominating India to gradually push its citizens to Nepal and perpetuate its control over the small county.

The main opposition, CPN-UML, despite not officially making strong protests in parliament, had unofficially called the president to not endorse the bill. President Bhandari was a member of the party before her election to the top office in 2015.

This perhaps is the second biggest conflict between the executive government and the ceremonial head of the state in the republic of Nepal since 2008. In 2009, President Ram Baran Yadav revoked the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government’s decision to sack Nepal Army Chief Rookmamgad Katwal. The move had led to the end of Dahal’s premiership.

As in the 2009 case, the recent move is also certain to divide the nation between for and against the president and the government.

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