New Delhi: Petitioners today moved the Supreme Court, challenging the Patna High Court verdict that upheld the Bihar government’s caste-based survey. The petitioners included Akhilesh Kumar and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) ‘Ek Soch Ek Prayas’ and ‘Youth for Equality’ who claimed that the survey was beyond the mandate of the state government as it amounted to a census that only the Union could carry out as per the Constitution.
One of the petitioners, Kumar, argued that the Bihar Government sought to “usurp the powers of the Union of India, by merely publishing a notification in the official gazette”. According to him the Patna High Court ‘erroneously’ dismissed the writ petition “without taking into consideration the fact that the state government lacked the competence to notify a caste-based survey”.
The Bihar government had already filed a caveat in the apex court in anticipation of such appeals.
Earlier on August 1, 2023, a Patna High Court bench of Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Partha Sarthy upheld the caste survey being undertaken by the State of Bihar. In the case of Youth for Equality and Others versus State of Bihar and Others, the high court bench dismissed all writ petitions and ruled that the action of the state was “perfectly valid, initiated with due competence, with the legitimate aim of providing ‘development with justice'”.
The bench upheld the Nitish Kumar government’s contention that the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008, empowers it to conduct such an exercise in the interest of social justice.
The Patna High Court Bench also distinguished a caste survey from a census, and ruled that it was not a “coercive exercise” to divulge citizens’ personal data since they were already in the public domain – “…the actual survey has neither exercised nor contemplated any coercion to divulge the details and having passed the test of proportionality, thus not having violated the rights of privacy of the individual especially since it is in furtherance of a ‘compelling public interest’ which in effect is the ‘legitimate state interest’”.
It may be mentioned that while the first phase of the caste survey was conducted in January 2023, the second phase which started on April 15 and was to end on May 15, was stayed by the high court on May 4, 2023. The August 1 order, therefore, paved the way for its resumption.
– global bihari bureau