With the ‘and’ provision on citizenship —which states that an individual will be Nepali if both their parents are Nepali citizens—not in the questionnaire formulated by the Questionnaire Preparation Subcommittee of the Constituent Assembly, women rights activists now see two possible solutions.
The rights activists have been demanding that the ‘and’ provision be replaced by the ‘or’, granting Nepali citizenship to a person one of whose parents is a Nepali citizen. But since none of the committees within the CA, including the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles Committee responsible for drafting the provisions on citizenship , regarded the ‘and’ provision a disputed issue, the Questionnaire Subcommittee did not include it.
“I understand that the ‘and’ provision is controversial in public, but it is not so in the CA. The subcommittee, therefore, has no authority to include it in the questionnaire,” said CPN-UML lawmaker Agni Kharel, who heads the subcommittee.
In May last year, the Constitution Records Study and Determination Committee, responsible for sorting the agreements and disagreements of the first CA, forwarded the ‘and’ provision to the Constitution Drafting Committee as a settled issue. Although the Drafting Committee sent it back to the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee for further discussion, the PDCC never lodged a written amendment proposal against the ‘and’ provision.
On January 12 this year, the PDCC came close to proposing the ‘or’ provision, but after senior UML leaders including former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, and Chairman KP Oli backed out of their commitment to the ‘or’ clause, the process got stalled. Thus, technically, the ‘and’ provision on citizenship was never an issue.
Women rights activists now see two ways the ‘and’ provision could be amended. “If the PDCC becomes active again, it could propose the ‘or’ provision and render the ‘and’ debatable,” said Sapana Pradhan Malla, former CA member and an advocate of women’s rights.
After it failed to resolve the contentious issues and submitted a report to the CA on January 13, the role of PDCC has been passive.
The next option that the rights activists find is lengthy and bleak. “If a draft of the constitution is written with the ‘and’ provision intact, CA members should be provided enough time to register amendment proposals against it. The biggest challenge, however, would be to find a member willing to register the proposal,” said Malla.
Despite the dim prospects of ensuring a mother’s right to pass citizenship to her child, supporters of the ‘or’ provision took out a rally from Babarmahal to near the CA hall in New Baneshwor on Sunday. They also filed a ‘right to information’ application with the CA Secretariat, demanding to know why and how the ‘and’ provision is not a dispute.