No other body other than the Union Government can conduct a caste census, the Supreme Court was told today. The Centre, in an affidavit, asserted that the Census Act, 1948, empowers only the Government to conduct the census. The move is a challenge to the Bihar government which in an earlier hearing informed the Supreme Court that an exercise of conducting surveys of the caste census in Bihar was conducted by August 6 and the data gathered uploaded by August 12.
The Supreme Court, on August 21, had allowed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, to file its response on the issue within seven days after he said the survey could have some consequences. Today was the seventh day.
The Government said that it is committed to taking all affirmative actions for the “upliftment of SCS/STS/SEBCs and OBCs in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India and the applicable law.”
Various petitions have been moved in the Supreme Court challenging the Patna High Court judgment upholding the caste survey ordered by the Bihar Government.
In the August 21 hearing, the top court told the petitioners that it will not stay the exercise unless they made out a prima facie case against it.
The Patna High Court had earlier dismissed the pleas challenging the Nitish Kumar government’s decision to conduct the survey based on castes. The high court had said 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 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. Chief Minister NItish Kumar insists that the caste survey would be beneficial for all sections of the society.