SC to hear plea challenging legality of Bihar caste-based survey on October 6

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Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the uploading of data collected in the recently concluded Bihar caste-based survey.  file

Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the uploading of data collected in the recently concluded Bihar caste-based survey. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will hear petitions challenging the legality of the caste-based survey held in Bihar on October 6. A Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna informed Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the Union Government in the case that the case has been listed for hearing.

The Union Government had maintained that only the Center and “no other body” was entitled to conduct “either census or any action akin to census” in its reply to the Supreme Court on the Bihar Government’s caste-based survey.

“Census is a statutory process and is governed by the Census Act, 1948. The subject of census is covered in the Union List under Entry 69 in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution,” the Office of the Registrar General, Home Ministry, said in a two-page affidavit.

The affidavit said the Center is “committed to take all affirmative actions for the upliftment of SCs/STs/SEBCs and OBCs in accordance with the Constitution and the applicable law”. The Ministry said the affidavit was only meant to state the position in law before the top court.

Uploading of data

Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the uploading of data collected in the recently concluded Bihar caste-based survey while debunking claims that the Nitish Kumar Government had violated the fundamental right to privacy by compelling people to reveal their caste.

Months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the survey revealed that the Other Backward Classes and the Extremely Backward Classes between them constituted 63% of the State’s population, of which the EBCs constituted 36% while the OBCs stood at 27.13%.

The Bihar Government had argued that the exercise was a “social survey”. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, for the State Government, said the data from the survey would be used to tailor welfare measures.

Patna HC order

The Patna High Court, on August 1, had upheld the legality of the survey.

The petitioners had argued that Bihar had no authority to conduct such a survey, which was an attempt to usurp the powers of the Centre.

They contended the survey had violated Schedule VII of the Constitution, the Census Act, 1948 and the Census Rules, 1990. The petitions highlighted that census was enumerated at Entry 69 in the Union List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The plea argued that the survey notification in June 2022 was ultra vires the Section 3, 4, and 4A of the Census Act, 1948 as well as Rules 3, 4 and 6A of the Census Rules, 1990.

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