A lot of questions about the president’s role as she refuses to enact the citizenship bill

President Bidya Devi Bhandari presents the government's annual policy and programme for the fiscal year 2022/23 in a parliament meeting, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
President Bidya Devi Bhandari presents the government’s annual policy and programme for the fiscal year 2022/23 in a parliament meeting, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Kathmandu, September 21

President Bidya Devi Bhandari has refused to enact the controversial citizenship bill sent to her for final assent by both houses of the parliament.

The constitution required her to enact the bill by Tuesday midnight, the 15th day since Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota sent the bill for approval. However, the President’s Office remained silent about the bill during this period.

The government had apparently expected the head of the state would approve the bill on the final day, but the ruling party leaders say they were shocked by the president’s move.

Senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel says the president’s move has jeopardised the constitution.

Advocate Sunil Kumar Pokharel says the president did not have any alternative to approving the bill sent to her for the second time. “Otherwise, she should resign. Not approving the bill as mandated by the constitution but still retaining the position is a breach of the constitution.”

Nepal Bar Association President Gopal Krishna Ghimire says this is an example of the misuse of the taxpayers’ money.

Endorsing the bill to amend the Citizenship Act through both houses of the federal parliament, Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota sent the bill to the head of the state seeking its final assent two weeks ago. 

Article 113(4) of the constitution reads: “In case any bill is sent back along with a message by the president, and both houses reconsider and adopt the bill as it was or with amendments and present it again, the president shall authenticate that bill within fifteen days of such presentation.”

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 have 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.

Consequently, President Bidya Devi Bhandari returned the citizenship bill to the parliament, suggesting a reconsideration, bringing herself into a conflict with the executive.

Both houses, however, approved the bill as it was and sent it to the president.

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