Nepal’s top court on Friday barred combative deputy prime minister Rabi Lamichhane from office for failing to regain citizenship in the Himalayan republic after giving up his US passport.
After his newly formed party joined the coalition government last month, Rabi Lamichhane, 48, was elevated to the position of deputy prime minister and was given control over the home ministry.
Lamichhane, a former popular television host, relinquished his US citizenship in 2018, but the court said on Friday that he had not followed due process.
“The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that his candidacy and election to the post of a member of the House of Representatives are void,” Supreme Court spokesman Bimal Poudel told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The court ruled that after abandoning his American citizenship, Lamichhane did not reapply for Nepali nationality. Therefore, it said, he improperly contested the election because of his invalid citizenship. Nepal does not allow dual citizenship.
Lamichhane walked out of the Ministry of Home Affairs and told reporters that he was now without any citizenship and was unable to make any comments.
There was no immediate comment from the government or the prime minister’s office.
Lamichhane, who made a name for himself as an anti-corruption crusader, formed the National Independent Party with people who had no connections to political groups. The party won 20 seats in the November 20 elections for the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament.
The departure of the minister was unlikely to affect the future of the ruling alliance, political analyst Krishna Khanal said.
Lamichhane’s lawyer Sunil Pokhrel told the Reuters news agency that Lamichhane will now seek to get a regular citizenship card and contest a by-election in the same constituency in southern Nepal.
He was elected as a result of widespread dissatisfaction with Nepal’s ageing, inept political elite at a time when the nation’s fragile remittance and tourism-based economy was in peril.
The editor of the Nagarik newspaper, Guna Raj Luitel, told AFP that “this issue is a setback to that wave of change.”
“The people had high hopes for the new faces, but this will undermine their faith in them.”