The Union government on Monday told the Supreme Court that Bihar’s caste-based survey may have “ramifications” and sought time to put forward its stand on the matter, Live Law reported.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made the statement before a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti that was hearing petitions by non-governmental organisations Youth For Equality and Ek Soch Ek Prayas against the Patna High Court’s decision to uphold the survey.
Mehta sought the court’s permission to file an affidavit explaining the Centre’s views on the legality of the survey. “This may have some ramifications,” he said. “Please consider my request to place on record my view – not that I am opposing one side or the other – on the legal position of this.”
The Supreme Court granted the Centre a week to file its response.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Youth for Equality, urged the bench to consider a stay on the publication of the survey results till the case was heard, the Hindustan Times reported. However, Justice Khanna said that the court will not stay the survey unless a prima facie case was made out to do so.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the Bihar government, said that data from the survey was ready to be analysed. To this, Rohatgi said that the state should not take any further steps in this regard.
However, Justice Khanna reiterated that the court will not stay the survey. “There are two aspects,” he said. “One is the collection of data; the second is analysis. It is the second part that is more difficult and problematic. The first part today is virtually over.”
At the start of the first phase of the survey, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had said that the exercise would benefit all communities. He had said that the survey would be a detailed record of castes and communities in the state, which will help in their development.
India had last conducted an exercise to count the population of all caste groups in 1931. In independent India, census reports have published data noting the population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but not other caste groups.