Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Rabi Lamichhane, accused of holding dual Nepali and American citizenship, on Friday lost the citizenship battle, as the Supreme Court annulled his status as a lawmaker.
A constitutional bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki and comprising Justices Bishowambhar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwar Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, and Anil Sinha, held that the citizenship certificate he produced to contest the parliamentary election was invalid.
Lamichhane, a former media person, entered politics last June by forming a new party, Rastriya Swatantra Party, which won 14 seats in the recent elections.
On December 14, advocates Yubaraj Poudel and Rabiraj Basaula filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court arguing that Lamichhane cannot become a member of parliament because he doesn’t have Nepali citizenship.
The petitioners demanded that Lamichhane should be removed from the post of party chief, contending that only Nepali citizens have a constitutional right to vote in the elections, become candidates, and set up political parties in the country. The petitioners had contended that Lamichhane’s positions as a member of the lower house and party President were illegal.
The writ petitioners had also demanded that the Supreme Court issue an interim order to stop Lamichhane from working as a lawmaker until the final court verdict. During an initial hearing on the case on January 6, the apex court had refused to issue an interim order, opting to decide the issue through a final verdict.
Section 10 of the Citizenship Act says any Nepali citizen who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of any foreign country will automatically lose the Nepali citizenship.
Lamichhane, a media person by profession, returned to Nepal a few months after becoming an American citizen and started working here.
After four years, a complaint was lodged in the Press Council of Nepal saying that he was working in Nepal without a work permit. A foreign national needs a permit to work in Nepal. Only after the criticism did Lamichhane, in May 2018, abandon the American citizenship and its proof was presented to the Department of Immigration.
He, however, never applied to reclaim his citizenship. Lamichhane’s lawyers had argued that as he never renounced Nepali citizenship, his citizenship from 1994 got automatically revived the day he surrendered American citizenship.
The Citizenship Act, however, doesn’t say so. Section 11 says if any citizen of Nepal, who has acquired foreign citizenship, returns to reside in Nepal and submits a notification to the designated authority the evidence of renunciation of foreign citizenship, his/her Nepali citizenship shall be provided again once he/she submits the evidence of renunciation.
An application needs to be submitted to the respective office to reclaim the Nepali citizenship as per the Act and its regulation.
Clause 11 of the regulations of the Act says the person who has renounced the foreign citizenship should apply to the Ministry of Home Affairs or the District Administration Office concerned. The authority concerned, after studying the application, would issue the citizenship of Nepal containing the same details mentioned in the previous document. The copy of the citizenship Lamichhane had produced to file the nomination was issued in 1994.