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Supreme Court Refuses To Entertain Petitions Challenging Caste-Based Census In Bihar; Asks Petitioners To Approach HC

Sohini Chowdhury
20 Jan 2023 7:29 AM GMT
Public Interest Litigation (PIL), supreme Court Caste-Based Census, Bihar, Against National Integration,

The Supreme Court, on Friday, refused to entertain petitions challenging the Bihar Government’s decision to conduct a caste-based census in the State.

The Bihar Government launched the caste survey on January 7, this year. The plan is to compile data on each family digitally through a mobile application in the survey from the panchayat to the district level. The pleas implored the Supreme Court to quash the State Government's notification to conduct caste-based census.

A Bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Vikram Nath, was however, not impressed with the submissions made by the Counsels on behalf of the petitioners and suspected their motivation to file the petition.

At the outset Justice Gavai noted, “So, this is a publicity interest litigation?”

The Judge was concerned that -

“If this is granted then how will they(State Govt.) determine how reservation is to be granted?”

After briefly hearing the Counsels, he asked them to ‘go and file before the High Court’.

The Bench dismissed all the petitions as withdrawn granting 'liberty to seek appropriate remedies in law'.

On 11th January, 2023, the matter was mentioned for urgent listing before the Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud and he agreed to list the petition.

The petitions, essentially, seek to quash the State Government’s notification on the ground that the subject of the census falls in List 1 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and only the Union Government is contemplated to conduct the census. The petitions aver that as per the broad scheme of the Census Act 1948, only the central government has the power to make rules, appoint Census Staff, requisition premises for taking censuses, payment of compensation, power to obtain information, a delegation of functions of the Central Government with regard to requisitioning, etc.

It further argues that the Census Act 1948 does not contemplate caste-based census. The government notification was assailed on the ground that it "violated the basic structure of the Constitution".

Significantly, another argument raised in one of the petitions is that, the State government's notification is illegal and unconstitutional and the same is an attempt to strike at the unity and integrity of the country and to create social disharmony among the people on caste lines for petty vote bank politics.

[ Case Title: Ek Soch Ek Prayas v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 71/2023 and connected cases]

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