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Business News/ News / India/  Supreme Court refuses to stay Patna High Court order halting caste survey conducted by Bihar government
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Supreme Court refuses to stay Patna High Court order halting caste survey conducted by Bihar government

Caste survey: The state government said the collection of caste-based data is a constitutional mandate under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court of India (ANI)Premium
The Supreme Court of India (ANI)

Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Patna High Court order halting the caste survey conducted by the Bihar government. A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal said it would have to examine if the exercise being carried out is a census in garb of survey.

"We are making it clear, this is not a case where we can grant you interim relief," the bench said. The apex court noted that the high court had posted the hearing of the main petition on July 3.

"We direct that this petition be listed on July 14. If for any reason, the hearing of the writ petition does not commence before the next date, we will hear further submission canvassed by the senior counsel for the petitioner (Bihar)," the bench said.

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

Article 15 of the Constitution says the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, while Article 16 states there shall be equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

"The state has already completed more than 80 per cent of the survey work in some districts and less than 10 per cent of the work is pending. The entire machinery is working at ground level. There shall be no harm in completing the exercise subject to final adjudication of the dispute.

"The time gap to complete the survey would adversely affect the survey since this would not be contemporaneous data. The stay of collection of data itself would cause a huge loss to the state since, if finally the action of the state is upheld, the state would be required to put logistics in place with additional expenditure and burden on public exchequer," the plea said.

Hearing a clutch of petitions, the high court had directed the state government to immediately stop the caste-based survey and ensure that the data already collected are secured and not shared with anybody till final orders are passed.

The high court has fixed July 3 as the next date for the hearing.

"Prima facie, we are of the opinion that the state has no power to carry out a caste-based survey, in the manner in which it is fashioned now, which would amount to a census, thus impinging upon the legislative power of the Union Parliament," the high court had said.

Expressing concern, the court noted the government's intention was to share data from the survey with leaders of different parties in the state assembly. There definitely arises the larger question of the right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has held to be a facet of the right to life, it had said.

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Published: 18 May 2023, 02:40 PM IST
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