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Editorial: Handle with care

Editorial: Handle with care
Amending citizenship-related laws has never been easy. Diverse opinion among the political parties and stakeholders always complicates the process. Most recently, the amendment bill to the Citizenship Act had been pending in the House of Representatives for two years. Looming elections may have prompted the five-party ruling coalition to ditch that and table a new one. The ruling coalition fast-tracked the parliamentary endorsement process and forwarded the bills to the president for authentication. Usually, the president does not censure such bills. But in a rare move, President Bidya Devi Bhandari returned the bill to Parliament, raising concerns over some of its provisions. Questions can be raised over the President’s intent as some of her past decisions were motivated by her political inclinations but on this occasion her decision cannot be termed unconstitutional. Article 113(2) of the constitution allows her to do so. But irrespective of what has happened, the issue of citizenship is a sensitive one and major political stakeholders must now refrain from politicizing it—elections or no elections.

The ruling parties made a mistake by fast-tracking the bill’s endorsement instead of holding intensive discussions on it in parliament as well as in public. Lawmakers had filed dozens of amendment proposals, all of which were sidelined. The president’s move has now given them another opportunity to correct their earlier error.

Time has come for sober reflection. The ruling and opposition parties need to sit down and find an amicable solution. Their common goal should be to ensure that every eligible citizen gets citizenship without hassles, and without any kind of discrimination based on gender, identity or orientation. The bill sent by the president with her suggestions has already been tabled in the HoR. If parties are honest and mindful of national interest, they can easily find a compromise because they know what is the right thing to do. Just heed the larger public opinion on citizenship which is increasingly accommodative rather than restrictive. The question is: can our major parties for once rise above partisan interests and cynical electoral politics?