HomeEconomySupreme Court Asserts: Bihar's Caste Survey Findings Unveiled Unless Constitutional Rights Violated

Supreme Court Asserts: Bihar’s Caste Survey Findings Unveiled Unless Constitutional Rights Violated

The Supreme Court has declared that it will not prevent the Bihar government from disclosing the results of the comprehensive caste survey, unless there is concrete evidence of a violation of constitutional rights or incompetence on the part of the state administration. This verdict follows a series of petitions lodged with the apex court, challenging the Patna High Court’s decision of 1.August , high court had granted permission to the government to carry out the caste survey, which Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has emphasized as pivotal to advancing social justice.

The bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti addressed the matter, asserting, “We are not going to stay anything unless there is a prima facie case to show some violation… some legal issues that are debatable. The exercise has already been completed and the judgment of the high court has been in their favour. We will not stay anything without there being a prima facie case now.”

Senior counsel Aparajita Singh, representing one of the petitioners, sought to halt the survey’s publication until the case’s final decision. The court, however, was unyielding, urging the parties to present their arguments. It emphasized that it would only consider an order based on a satisfactory prima facie case and declined to issue an immediate ruling.

Representing the Bihar government, Shyam Divan, senior counsel for the Mahagathbandhan alliance, comprising the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Congress, opposed the plea for delaying the survey’s publication. He clarified that only aggregated survey outcomes, devoid of individual particulars, are made public.

CS Vaidyanathan, senior advocate for the NGO Youth For Equality, argued that the Bihar government’s survey contradicted the Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench decision in the Puttaswamy case. He contended that the judgment stipulated that only a law could permit a state to conduct an exercise impacting an individual’s privacy, which was not the case with the executive order that governed the survey.

The bench posed the question of which aspect of privacy was being violated when only cumulative data and not individualistic information would be published. Vaidyanathan pointed out that 17 socioeconomic questions were asked during the survey, with no penalties for non-compliance. He concluded by reiterating that the state lacked the authority to conduct the exercise without a corresponding law.

The Supreme Court will reconvene on August 21 to further deliberate on the matter, during which Singh will present her plea for postponing the survey’s publication.

In Bihar, the call for a caste survey garnered momentum last year, receiving support across party lines, with the ruling Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal leading the demand. The appeal has resonated with various opposition parties, including the Congress, in the hopes that the caste enumeration could reshape the political landscape by challenging the BJP’s influence within marginalized groups and curbing religious polarization.

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