'Casteism Rampant' in Bihar Says SC, Asks High Court To Re-Examine Plea for Stay on Caste Survey

"There is so much casteism there. In every field. Bureaucracy, politics, service," Justice M.R. Shah, one of the two judges on the division bench, remarked.

New Delhi: While noting that casteism is rampant in Bihar, the Supreme Court on Friday, April 28, refused to hear a petition that sought an interim stay on the ongoing caste census in the state. Instead, it asked the petitioner to approach Patna high court with his plea, and directed the high court to dispose of it “preferably” in three days.

“There is so much casteism there. In every field. Bureaucracy, politics, service,” Justice M.R. Shah, one of the two judges on the division bench, remarked, according to Bar and Bench.

The petitioner, in fact, approached the top court after the high court had turned down his plea for an interim stay. However, the Supreme Court observed that the high court should have heard the matter on merits before deciding on whether or not to grant interim relief.

“One way or the other, (plea for) interim relief has to be considered on merits. Let a division bench consider it,” Justice Shah said. “We clarify that we have not said anything on merits and it is for the high court to take a call on the same.”

The petition was moved by Youth for Equality, an organisation that works against caste-based policies and reservations.

Meanwhile, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, told the court that caste-based census is being done only in view of elections, and it is a serious matter. He also said that Bihar has rampant casteism.

For its part, the counsel for the Bihar government noted before the court that multiple petitions are being filed against the government’s move to conduct a caste-based census.

At this stage, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, the other judge on the division bench, sought to know from the Bihar government the “haste” with which such a survey is being taken up. To this, Bihar’s counsel responded by saying that it is a matter of complying with directive principles enshrined in the constitution. Justice Pardiwala responded by saying, “What directive principles?”

The court then directed the Patna high court to look into the matter and dispose of the case in three days “preferably”.

The first round of the caste survey in Bihar was conducted between January 7 and 21. The second round started on April 15 and will continue till May 15.

Earlier, in January this year, the Supreme Court had turned down three public interest litigations (PILs) that sought directions from the court to the Bihar government to stop the caste census.

“This is a publicity interest litigation. If we allow this then how will they determine how much reservation to be given? You want to withdraw? Go and file before the high court. Sorry, we do not entertain such petitions,” Justice B.R. Gavai had remarked.