The implementation of the Nepal Citizenship (First Amendment) Act, 2079, which has been a subject of controversy for an extended period, has been given the green light. Although the law has been passed twice by Parliament, it was previously suspended by former President Bidya Bhandari. However, the current President, Ramchandra Paudel, has confirmed the act. Despite the absence of any provision in the law regarding citizenship through marriage, concerns and opposition have emerged without a thorough understanding of the law.
A joint bench consisting of Supreme Court Justices Anand Mohan Bhattarai and Kumar Regmi has paved the way for the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Earlier, in response to a writ filed by senior advocates Surendra Bhandari and Balkrishna Neupane, Judge Manoj Kumar Sharma issued a temporary interim order on May 21, preventing the implementation of the Citizenship Act. Nevertheless, on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled against the continuation of the temporary interim order. Consequently, the Citizenship Act has now come into effect. “The remaining orders will be issued after the final hearing,” stated Supreme Court spokesperson Bimal Paudel.
The new law does not introduce any provisions regarding citizenship through marriage; hence, the four-decade-old provision will remain unchanged. As per the Constitution of Nepal 2019, it states, “A wife who is married to a Nepali citizen shall be eligible to obtain citizenship at the time of the commencement of the constitution.” Thus, during the period when King Mahendra introduced the constitution, there was no specified time frame for foreign women married to Nepali men to acquire naturalized citizenship.
However, 13 years after the constitution was promulgated, a second amendment was made in 2032, setting a five-year deadline for the legalization of such marriages. The revised constitution stipulated, “Foreign spouses married to Nepali citizens must have resided in Nepal for a minimum of five years, and in the case of others, at least 15 years.”
Nevertheless, this provision underwent revision within four years. The third amendment in 2037 stated, “In the case of a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen, she shall obtain Nepali citizenship after renouncing her foreign citizenship.”
With the restoration of democracy, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, issued in 2047, simplified this provision, stating, “Foreign women married to Nepali citizens shall be eligible to obtain Nepalese citizenship after taking the necessary steps to renounce their foreign citizenship.” The constitution further required foreign women in such marriages to submit proof of their marital relationship with the Nepali citizen, as well as documentation showing their intent to renounce their foreign citizenship.
Consequently, a foreign woman married to a Nepali man could acquire Nepali citizenship by submitting a certificate indicating her initiation of the citizenship renunciation process. This provision was also followed by the Citizenship Act, 2063, which stated, “A foreign woman married to a Nepali man, desiring Nepali citizenship, must submit a certificate confirming the renunciation of her foreign citizenship.” A foreign woman who fulfills these requirements shall be eligible for naturalized citizenship in accordance with federal law.
The Citizenship Amendment Act 2079, aligned with the Constitution issued in 2072, has not introduced any new provisions regarding citizenship through marriage. This means that the previous law of 2063 will be applicable to foreign women married to Nepalese citizens. It is important to note that the law of 2063 is essentially the law of 2049. A similar law also existed during the Panchayat period.