The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Bihar government to release the break-up of the caste survey’s findings to allow people to challenge the inferences drawn from the data, PTI reported.

On October 2, the Bihar government had released the findings of its caste survey, revealing that the Other Backward Classes and the Extremely Backward Classes constituted more than 63% of the state’s population.

The survey had also found that Bihar’s population was about 13.07 crore. Of this, the Extremely Backward Classes, at 36%, were the largest social segment followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13%.

The population of the Scheduled Castes stood at 19.7% and the Scheduled Tribes at 1.7%. Bihar’s general population accounted for the remaining 15.5%.

Based on the findings of this survey, the Bihar Assembly in November unanimously passed a bill to increase caste-based reservations in education and government jobs from 50% to 65%, crossing the ceiling set by the Supreme Court.

The government has explained that since another 10% Economically Weaker Sections quota is effective under a different Act, it will not be a part of the current reservation matrix. With the 10% reservations for the Economically Weaker Sections, the total quotas in the state will increase to 75%.

This is well past the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court in 1992 for total caste-based reservations.

On Monday, a division bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta were hearing petitions by non-governmental organisations Youth For Equality and Ek Soch Ek Prayas that are challenging the Patna High Court’s decision to uphold the caste survey.

The petitioners have argued that the survey was equivalent to a census exercise that only the Centre can carry out according to the Constitution.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Ek Soch Ek Prayas, sought an order that would stop the state government from acting on the findings of the survey.

“We wish to argue for interim relief once we place the census report on record,” he said. “The urgency is that the report is being implemented, and reservation has been increased. This has been challenged before the Patna High Court.”

However, the court refused to grant the petitioner’s request and said that it is concerned about the unavailability of the breakdown of the survey data in the public domain.

“What I was concerned about more than [the] census report is that the breakdown of data is not normally made available to the public, which leads to a lot of problems,” LiveLaw quoted Khanna as saying. “The question is to what extent can the government withhold the breakdown of the data?”

In response, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the Bihar government, said that the survey is available in the public domain and it had already been shared in the state legislature as well.

He added that the government was still working on the data compiled in the survey and information is made available to the public as and when an analysis is completed.

“No, that would be a problem,” The Hindu quoted Khanna as saying. “The break-up of data should normally be made available because if someone wants to challenge a particular inference, that chance should be given.”

This comes after the Supreme Court in October refused to stop the Bihar government from acting on the findings of its caste survey.

The state government, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), had started the caste survey in January 2022 after the Union government said it will not undertake such an exercise for other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as part of the Census.

Also read: How findings of the Bihar caste census push the BJP into a corner