The Supreme Court on October 6, issued notice to the Bihar Government on the plea challenging a caste-based survey in the state and refused to stay anything arising out of the publication of the data of the caste census.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti made it clear that it is not going to stay anything at this point. The court said that it cannot stop the state Government or any Government from taking a decision as that would be wrong.
The court, however, said it would consider any issue with regard to data of caste-based survey and examine the issue regarding the power of the State Government to conduct such exercises. Also, the court sought to know from the Bihar Government why they published the data. The Apex court was hearing petitions challenging the Patna High Court’s decision to uphold the caste survey initiated by the Bihar Government.
The petitioner’s lawyer has apprised the court that the Bihar Government has already published the caste survey data, prompting concerns and challenges from various quarters.
Among the petitioners are organisations like Ek Soch Ek Prayas and Youth for Equality, who have contested the legality and authority of the caste-based survey.
The Union Government also entered the legal fray, filing an affidavit with the Supreme Court, emphasising that the Census Act of 1948 bestows exclusive authority upon the Union Government to conduct census-related activities.
The affidavit reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to uplift Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in line with constitutional provisions and applicable laws.
One of the petitions, represented by advocate Tanya Shree on behalf of petitioner Akhilesh Kumar, contested the Patna High Court’s dismissal of pleas challenging the Nitish Kumar Government’s decision to conduct the caste-based survey. The High Court’s order was issued on August 1.
The petitioner had argued that the State of Bihar lacked the constitutional competence to initiate a caste-based survey and usurped the exclusive authority of the Union Government in conducting a census.
The petitioner had highlighted that the Bihar Government’s notification dated June 6, 2022, and the subsequent appointment of a District Magistrate for supervision violate constitutional provisions, including the distribution of powers between the state and the union. The petitioner contended that the entire exercise is without legislative competence and is riddled with malafide intentions.
The petitioner underscored that only the Union Government possesses the authority to conduct a census in India, rendering the Bihar State Government’s notification null and void. The Patna High Court had previously dismissed similar pleas contesting the caste-based survey ordered by the Nitish Kumar administration.
The survey aims to collect data related to people of all castes, sub-castes, and socioeconomic conditions, covering an estimated population of 12.70 crores across 38 districts in Bihar.
(with inputs from ANI)