The Union government sought assistance in a number of petitions that questioned the legitimacy of the Bihar government’s caste survey on Monday by arguing before the Supreme Court that only the Centre is authorised by the Constitution to conduct a census. The Centre argued that the census is listed as a subject under Entry 69 in the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution in a brief affidavit submitted through the Ministry of Home Affairs.
After removing the phrase “no other body is entitled to conduct the exercise of either Census or any action akin to it” from its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the Centre had previously included it. The controversial paragraph elicited vehement reactions from certain Bihar authorities who saw it as a threat to the caste survey in the state, which led to the development.
According to the affidavit, only the government has the authority to conduct a census under the terms of the Census Act. In a previous hearing, the Bihar government had informed the Supreme Court that the state’s caste census exercise had been completed by August 6, and the data had been uploaded by August 12.
The affidavit was filed a week after the Supreme Court granted the Centre’s request to file a response to the matter within seven days after hearing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument that the survey would have some negative effects.
Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar, has criticised the Centre for filing the affidavit. “They don’t know anything. They are just skilled at lying and hiding the truth. Even in the affidavit, they have objected to it. The BJP has made it plain that it is opposed to the caste census and does not want it. If they agree with it, the caste census should be carried out nationwide, he said.
Sushil Modi, a senior BJP official and a former deputy chief minister of Bihar, asserted that while his party supports a caste census, “under the Census Act, only the Centre can conduct a caste survey.”
The Indian government declared its dedication to taking all positive steps for the “upliftment of SCS/STS/SEBCs and OBCs in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Constitution and the applicable law.”
The Patna High Court decision upholding the caste census conducted by the Bihar Government has been contested in a number of Supreme Court cases.
The top court informed the petitioners in the hearing on August 21 that it would not suspend the exercise until they established a presumptive case against it.
The Patna High Court previously rejected the appeals against the Nitish Kumar administration’s choice to carry out the census based on castes. The Bihar caste survey would cover an estimated population of 12.70 crores in an estimated 2.58 crore households in 38 districts, which have 534 blocks and 261 urban local bodies. The high court had stated in its 101-page verdict, “We find the action of the state to be perfectly valid, initiated with due competence with the legitimate aim of providing development with justice….” The caste survey, according to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, will be advantageous for all facets of society.
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