As the summer session of parliament ended in late September, 23 of the 48 bills tabled during this session or pending from earlier ones remained unresolved, 23 at the House of Representatives and six at the National Assembly.
The National Assembly is yet to decide on:
- the first amendment to the Nepal Engineering Council Act 2055;
- the Kathmandu Valley Public Transportation (Management) Authority Bill 2076;
- the Nepal Media Council 2075;
- the Central, Federal, and Local Levels (Correlation Management) Bill;
- the first amendment to the Industrial Entrepreneur Development Academy Bill 2075; and
- the first amendment to the Revenue Leakage (Investigation and Control) Bill 2075.
In the House of Representatives, the government has not been able to pass some long-disputed bills: the Public Service Commission Bill, the Bill on National Priority Projects, the Peace and Security Bill, the National Human Rights Commission Bill, and the National Security Bill. Most are held up due to opposition disagreement, but in some cases there are dissenting views within the ruling Nepal Communist Party and its coalition members as well.
Disputed: Should naturalization be easier for foreign men than women
There has been no progress on the Citizenship Bill, which has been stuck at the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee for a year. The latest pushback comes from the Nepali Congress against a move by the KP Oli government to require that foreign women marrying Nepali [male] nationals must wait for seven years before they can start the naturalization process. The NC would like the provisions to remain the same as in the Interim Constitution of Nepal-2007, arguing that these are fairer, as they have the same naturalization regulations for foreign male and female nationals marrying Nepalis. The current draft bill proposes a 15 year waiting time for foreign men marrying Nepali women.
After the NC lodged a note of dissent on the naturalization threshold proposal with the parliamentary State Affairs Committee on September 14, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and others met PM Oli to discuss both the naturalization threshold and to urge the ruling party not to decide on sensitive issues like citizenship through a majority vote.
This is the latest hold-up in the passing of the citizenship act, even as thousands of people – mainly children of citizens by birth – are unable to get citizenship certificates, without which accessing government services, including education, is difficult. The other deeply contentious issue in the bill concerns the entitlement of Nepali women’s children to citizenship by birth should their mothers be single or married to foreign citizens.
Parliament approved an amendment bill to the eighth Land Act that would provide land to landless people defined by the government as squatters – sukkumbasi – despite protests from the main opposition Nepali Congress. Leaders of landless groups argue that inadequate land has been allocated for this, and that the proposed law instead clears the way for landlords and industrialists to legalize massive holdings of land that they have, so far, occupied without legal process.
The law proposes allowing industrialists, academic institutions, companies, and other institutions to use land that they have either bought or been using at the end of the last fiscal year, even if their legal holdings exceed the legal limits for land ownership. Under the previous law, this was not allowed, even if the law was not always strictly enforced.
The ceiling stands at 11 bigaha (approx. 74,500 sq m) for farmers in the Madhes and Inner Madhes, 30 ropanis (approx. 15,260 sq m) in Kathmandu Valley, and 75 ropanis (approx. 38,155 sq m) in the hills.
The proposed law states that landless people currently considered squatters will be awarded land not less than the five kaththas (approx. 1,690 sq m) awarded to kamaiayas, or people in enforced bonded labour, when that practice was outlawed in 2000. While the law says that anyone using public land for a period of at least 10 years will be entitled to the deed to that land, here, too the limit is five kaththas.
The proposed amendment also has a provision for the formation of a commission to identify landless people before they can be awarded land.