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Supreme Court Greenlights Bihar Caste Survey Amidst Legal Battle, Sets August 14 Hearing

As petitions opposing the survey's constitutionality persist, the court's adjournment to August 14 sets the stage for a pivotal legal showdown.

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In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court has upheld the Patna High Court's decision to proceed with a comprehensive caste survey in Bihar. The apex court, presided by a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, deferred the hearing on petitions opposing the survey to August 14.

The plea was brought before the court by the NGO 'Ek Soch Ek Paryas,' represented by senior advocates CS Vaidyanathan and Mukul Rohatgi, who sought an adjournment for the matter due to related petitions not yet listed for consideration. The court agreed to reconvene on August 14, a decision welcomed by the appellants, as repoted by PTI. 

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During the proceedings, another counsel requested the court to maintain a status quo ante, but Justice Khanna asserted, "There is no question of status quo in the matter at present," emphasizing that the court had not yet deliberated on the issue.

The court took note of the Patna High Court's assertion that 80 percent of the survey's work had been accomplished. A separate petition challenging the survey's constitutional validity had been filed by Nalanda resident Akhilesh Kumar, contending that the state government's notification contradicts the constitutional mandate, asserting that only the Union government holds authority for a census.

Kumar's plea further claimed that the Bihar government's efforts lacked legislative competence and were replete with malafide intentions. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had clarified that the survey aimed to collect information on economic status and caste affiliation, enabling targeted government interventions.

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The Patna High Court had previously endorsed the state's action, deeming it valid and aimed at equitable development. Following the high court's validation, the state government promptly suspended ongoing teacher training programs to prioritize survey completion.

The initial phase of the survey, encompassing door-to-door data collection, was concluded on January 21, with the state allocating Rs 500 crore from its contingency fund to finance the exercise.

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