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Law

SC Refuses To Entertain Petitions Challenging Bihar’s Caste Census

The top court asked the petitioners to approach the high court.

New Delhi: The Bihar government launched the caste survey on January 7. It aims to compile data on each family digitally through a mobile application from the panchayat to the district level.

On January 11, petitions seeking to quash the state government’s notification were listed for urgent hearing before Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud. The pleas were submitted on the ground that the caste-based census “violated the basic structure of the Constitution”.

However, a bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Vikram Nath on Friday, January 20 refused to entertain the petitions and asked the petitioners to approach the high court.

“If this is granted, then how will they (state government) determine how reservation is to be granted?” the bench said.

The bench dismissed all the petitions as withdrawn granting ‘liberty to seek appropriate remedies in law’, the report said.

The petitions said that the subject of the census falls in List 1 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and only the Union government is contemplated to conduct the census, LiveLaw reported. They added that as per the broad scheme of the Census Act 1948, only the central government has the power to make rules, appoint census staff, requisition premises for taking censuses, payment of compensation, power to obtain information, a delegation of functions of the central government with regard to requisitioning, etc.

According to the news outlet, the petitions also argued that the state government’s notification is “illegal” and “unconstitutional” and is an attempt to strike at the unity and integrity of the country and to create social disharmony among the people on caste lines for petty vote bank politics.

Also read: Why the BJP Is Afraid of a Caste Census

Separately, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss petitions challenging the caste survey being conducted by his government, saying that the exercise was meant to benefit all sections of society.

“I was appalled when I first learnt that a petition has been filed against the survey. I read it in a paper that the petitioner belonged to Bihar Sharif (the district headquarters of Nalanda). I felt like calling him up to know what was wrong with the survey,” Nitish told PTI.

“All political parties in the state were unanimously of the opinion that the survey be undertaken. Moreover, it is intended to benefit all sections of the society. It is also a caste survey (jaatiya ganana) and not a census (jana ganana),” said the chief minister.

The decision to undertake the survey was taken by the state government in June last year after the Union government made it clear that it was reluctant to include castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the census.