President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s refusal to approve suggested changes to the law caused a dispute between the government of Nepal and its head of state on Wednesday over contentious citizenship legislation, which threw the fledgling republic into chaos.
Giving citizenship certificates to youngsters whose parents’ whereabouts were unknown was among the improvements the bill proposed. According to the revisions, after the mother makes a statement, children born to a Nepali mother but whose father is absent could receive citizenship documents.
The deadline for Bhandari, a ceremonial head of state under the 2015 constitution, to approve the amendment to the 16-year-old Nepal Citizenship Act, expired at midnight.
“Since the government and parliament did not address her concerns, the president has refused to approve the bill,” Bhesh Raj Adhikari, an aide to Bhandari, told Reuters without giving details.
Legal experts said the president was required to approve the changes, passed twice by a majority of parliament.
Not doing so was a serious and grave violation of the constitution by a ceremonial head of state, said Balaram K.C., a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
“She should either resign as president or somebody should file a case against her in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Aides to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said top leaders of the ruling alliance would meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation and political alliances for the upcoming national elections set for November 20.
Additonally, under the existing citizenship provisions, a foreign woman married to a Nepali men can get a citizenship certificate after she shows proof of her marriage and that she has initiated action to relinquish her foreign citizenship.
Surya Thapa, a senior leader of the main opposition Communist Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party, said the amendment must include a provision requiring foreign women to wait for seven years before getting the Nepali citizenship.