With no prima facie case, the Supreme Court rejects the stay on the Bihar Caste Survey

In a recent development, the Supreme Court addressed the appeal against the Patna High Court’s approval of the caste census conducted by the Bihar government. The court has said that until the petitioners make a strong preliminary argument against it, it will not stop the current survey effort.

The highest court authorized the Centre’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to respond to the survey’s possible effects within seven days on behalf of the Center. Mehta said, “We are not this way or that way. I’m worried about the survey’s possible consequences. However, this activity may have some negative effects, thus we would want to provide our response. He did not, however, go into detail about the specifics of these repercussions, according to reporting from PTI.

Mehta requested an adjournment of the hearings, which were being overseen by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti. A number of applications from NGOs and individuals appealing the Patna High Court’s August 1 ruling are now being heard by the bench. Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, one of the petitioners, requested a court order to stop the state government from publicizing the survey’s results.

The bench defined the difference between the completed data gathering phase and the more difficult data analysis phase. It reiterated that there would be no injunction on any component of the procedure until the petitioners can prove a prima facie case against the survey. The court said that the Bihar government had pledged at a prior hearing that the information gathered would not be made public.

Despite Rohatgi’s plea for a restraining order, the bench emphasized the requirement for a prima facie case before any action could be taken and referenced a previous ruling in the state’s favor.

Senior attorney Shyam Divan argued against inserting any limits in the court decision on behalf of the Bihar government. In response to Solicitor General Mehta’s plea for further time to deliver the Centre’s answer, the bench subsequently set the subject for a rescheduled hearing on August 28.

The Supreme Court questioned the wisdom of include caste or sub-caste information in the survey on August 18, particularly as the state would not be disclosing any personal information. CS Vaidyanathan, speaking on behalf of the NGO “Youth for Equality,” said that the poll violated people’s right to privacy.

The caste survey was completed on August 6, according to a recent announcement from the Bihar government. By August 12, the collected data had been posted to the BIJAGA (Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana) app. It made it clear that only government agencies may access the data.

The Patna High Court’s decision to permit the caste census was met with criticism from a number of sources, which is when the legal dispute started. Notably, the NGOs “Youth for Equality” and “Ek Soch Ek Paryas,” as well as petitioner Akhilesh Kumar, disputed the validity of the survey on grounds of constitutionality. According to Kumar’s argument, only the Union government has the right to conduct a census in accordance with constitutional rules. The Bihar government’s actions, according to the petition, show a lack of adequate legislative competence and a whiff of malice.

The Patna High Court supported the state’s actions as being legally sound, carried out with competence, and intended to achieve development with fairness in its lengthy 101-page ruling.

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