The Nepali House of Representatives on Sunday passed the Citizenship Bill, easing the way for thousands of people living in the Terai region to acquire citizenship.
The passed Bill states that any person born before mid-April 1990 and living in the country since then, is eligible to acquire citizenship of Nepal.
Such persons will have to submit either land ownership certificates or house ownership certificates or their registration number in voters' lists to obtain citizenship.
The State Affairs Committee (SAC) of parliament last week decided to clear the bill ensuring citizenship rights to all eligible Nepalis.
SAC also decided to issue directives to the government to formulate necessary regulations so that none of the eligible citizens are deprived of citizenship.
The bill was passed by a majority vote. However, parliament member Narayan Man Bijukshya from Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party expressed dissatisfaction over the bill at Sunday's sitting of the House saying that it would create loopholes for "illegal distribution" of the citizenship certificate.
Speaker of the House Subash Nemwang authenticated the bill thereby declaring it an act.
On Nov. 8, both the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (formerly known as guerrillas) agreed to resolve the citizenship issue by considering April 1990 as the cut-off year.
Any person born of parents who are the citizens of Nepal will be a citizen of Nepal on the basis of descent and every minor found in Nepal whose parents' whereabouts is not known will be considered the citizen of Nepal on the basis of descent until the whereabouts of the parents is known.
Any foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen can acquire the Nepali citizenship on the basis of naturalization once she initiates the process of giving up her foreign citizenship.
In order to acquire the citizenship, she will have to submit an application in the designated format, according to the bill.
A person more than 16 years of age and who wants to acquire citizenship certificate on the basis of birth or descent is required to apply for the same by including with the application the Nepali citizenship certificate of one's father, mother or the close relative in his lineage, one's birth certificate, the certificate attesting one's lineage, the recommendation of the Village Development Committee or municipality concerned, the land- ownership certificate in one's name, father's name or mother's name, or the receipt of the house tax.
The parliament members have expressed optimism that with the bill passed the long-standing citizenship problem faced by an estimated 4 million people will now be resolved.
Talking to a leading media group's website, eKantipur.com, parliament member Hridayesh Tripathi from Nepal Sadbhawana Party ( Anandidevi) said that the passing of the bill has opened a door for more than 4 million people living in the Terai region in southern part of Nepal, who were deprived of their rights to acquire citizenship since the past four decades.
"The approval has materialized the House of Representatives Proclamation of May 18," said Tripathi.
The CPN and the ruling Seven Party Alliance in their Nov. 8 agreement had promised to complete distributing citizenship before Constituent Assembly polls that will be held by mid-June 2007.
The bill has a provision of tougher punishment to those who recommend fake persons for acquisition of citizenship.
The Home Ministry has already added additional manpower of two under-secretaries, three section officers and three non-gazetted first class officers to make necessary preparations for citizenship distribution.