Plea against HC verdict upholding caste survey in Bihar: SC to hear matter on Monday

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday a petition challenging the August 1 verdict of the Patna High Court which had upheld the validity of the caste survey in Bihar.

The high court had rejected a batch of petitions challenging the survey, which was ordered last year and began earlier this year.

According to the cause list uploaded on the apex court website, a plea filed by NGO ‘Ek Soch Ek Paryas’ challenging the high court verdict is listed for hearing on August 7 before a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti.

Besides the plea filed by the NGO, another petition has also been filed in the top court challenging the high court’s August 1 verdict.

The plea filed by Nalanda resident Akhilesh Kumar has contended that notification issued by the state government for the exercise is against the constitutional mandate.

It has said that in terms of the constitutional mandate, only the Union government is empowered to conduct a census.

“In the present case, the State of Bihar has sought to usurp the powers of Union of India, by merely publishing a notification in the official gazette.

“It is submitted that the Notification dated June 6, 2022 is against the Constitutional mandate of distribution of powers between the State and the Union legislature as enshrined under Article 246 of the Constitution read with Schedule VIIth of the Constitution and ultravires the Census Act, 1948 read with Census Rules, 1990 and is therefore void ab intio (since beginning),” Kumar has said in his plea, filed through advocate Barun Kumar Sinha.

The plea has submitted that the entire exercise of conducting a “census” by Bihar is without authority and legislative competence, and reeks of malafide.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has often insisted that the state is not conducting a caste census but only collecting information related to people’s economic status and their caste so specific steps could be taken by the government to serve them better.

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The high court had said in its 101-page verdict, “We find the action of the state to be perfectly valid, initiated with due competence, with the legitimate aim of providing development with justice .”

A day after the high court had held the caste survey in Bihar as “valid”, the state government had swung into action and suspended all ongoing training programmes for teachers so they can be engaged for early completion of the exercise.

The first phase of the exercise was completed on January 21. Around 15,000 officials, including enumerators and observers, had been assigned various responsibilities for the door-to-door survey.

The state government will spend Rs 500 crore from its contingency fund for the exercise.

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