New Delhi. SC on Thursday refused to lift the stay imposed by the Patna High Court on the caste census being undertaken by the State of Bihar. A Bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal refused relief to the Bihar government after noting that the Patna High Court has listed the case for final hearing on July 3.
“The impugned order is an interim one and the court has posted the main writ for hearing on July 3. In fact, the state government on May 9 moved applications before the Court that were disposed of. Contention of Advocate General was specifically rejected that final opinions were expressed. In fact, the High Court has observed that the court was open to other contentions when taken up for hearing,” the Supreme Court noted.
It, however, agreed to list the case on July 14 if the hearing before the High Court does not commence on July 3.
“Counsel for the petitioner states that the petition may be listed one week after July 3. He submits that if the High Court does not conduct the final hearing, this court may consider the matter on merits. We accordingly direct that this petition be listed on July 14 if for any reason hearing before High Court does not commence,” the Court directed.
The Patna High Court had, on May 4, stayed the Caste Census undertaken by the State till July 3.
The High Court order was passed in a plea challenging the caste survey.
The Bihar government’s appeal before the Supreme Court stated that the High Court erroneously examined the merits of the case at the interim stage and touched upon the legislative competence of the State.
Further, the High Court wrongly accepted the contention that the survey was a census, and that personal information regarding the same would be shared with MLAs, the appeal contended.
The State would have to incur huge financial costs if the survey is stopped at this stage, it was submitted.
During the hearing of the matter, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan representing the Bihar government, sought to distinguish between a census and a survey.
He said that the current exercise is not a census but only a voluntary survey.
“This particular survey will require 10 more days. There is a mobilisation taken place. Our survey not on a 100% basis like a census but voluntary… There is a distinction between survey and census. Census is on a particular date and for the whole population,” he said.
The bench, however, pointed out that the High Court had gone into those aspects.
“The (High) Court has gone into it and said stop for now…High Court had flagged data privacy issues,” the top court remarked.