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Supreme Court Refuses To Lift Stay On Bihar Caste Census

In an appeal filed before the top court against the May 4 order of the high court, the Bihar government had said the stay will adversely affect the entire exercise

Caste-based census in Bihar
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The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Patna High Court order which halted the caste survey being conducting 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.

What did Bihar government say?

In an appeal filed before the top court against the May 4 order of the high court, the Bihar government had said the stay will adversely affect the entire exercise. The state government said the collection of caste-based data is a constitutional mandate under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

During media interactions, CM Nitish Kumar had said, “The survey will be a detailed record on castes and communities in the State. It will help in their development”. 

The decision for a caste census was taken by the Bihar cabinet on June 2 last year, months after the Centre ruled out such an exercise at a national level.

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.

Earlier this month, the Patna High Court put a hold on the ongoing caste census being conducted by the Bihar government. According to a report by Bar and Bench, the survey was put on hold by the high court until July 3 and the court made it clear that “the stay is not on the census itself but on further data collection as well as sharing of information with political parties.”

"We are of the considered opinion that the petitioners have made out a prima facie case against the continuation of the process of caste-based survey, as attempted by the State of Bihar. There is also the question raised of data integrity and security which has to be more elaborately addressed by the State," the court said.

Supreme Court Justice Sanjay Karol on Wednesday, May 17, recused himself from hearing the plea filed by the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government challenging the controversial Patna high court order. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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