No voters' registration without citizenship: Nepal top court

Kathmandu: Nepal's top court on Thursday directed the Election Commission to halt the registration of new voters who do not have citizenship certificate, a move likely to fuel resentment among millions of ethnic Indian origin Madhesis living in the Terai plains bordering India.

Justice Prakash Wasti of the Supreme Court today issued an interim stay order while hearing a writ petition to halt the Election Commission's (EC) decision to register new voters who showed proof of local domicile through documents other than citizenship certificate.

The apex court termed it a serious matter related to the issue of nationality while passing the order, according to court official.

Nepal's Terai plains are home to about half of the country's 30 million people, and the residents of the region, known as Madhesis, have long complained of discrimination by the country's hill communities.

The Terai-based parties have claimed that millions of people living in the plains have been deprived of citizenship certificates.

Earlier, the Election panel had decided to allow documents other than citizenship certificate as proof of local domicile for being registered as a voter after Madhesh-based parties expressed concern amid fears that it would excluded millions of ethnic Indian origin people living in the Terai plains bordering India.

They had threatened to launch a stir if the government barred people from being registered as voters on the ground that they did not have citizenship certificate.

The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the Madhesi-dominated southern plains have long been treated as second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites dominate politics, the security forces and business.

They have demanded greater economic and political rights, including more representation in the state structure.

The interim order was in response to a joint petition filed by Sadhhya Bahadur Bhandari, Rishiraj Ghimire and Tara Sapkota who had claimed that Commission's decision could establish wrong precedent for the future.