Hours after a section of its affidavit in the Supreme Court said that “no other body is entitled to conduct the exercise of either Census or any action akin to it”, the Centre has now dropped the said paragraph. The development came after the controversial paragraph drew sharp reactions from some Bihar leaders as it was seen as a challenge to the caste survey in the state.
The affidavit mentions that under the Census Act, only the Government is empowered to conduct a census.
The Bihar government, in an earlier hearing, had informed the Supreme Court that an exercise of conducting surveys of the caste census in the state was conducted by August 6 and the data gathered uploaded by August 12.
The affidavit came a week after the top court 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.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav has hit out at the Centre for filing the affidavit. “They have no knowledge. They only know how to lie and suppress the truth. They have opposed it even in the affidavit. It has been made clear that the BJP does not want it (caste census) and is opposing it. If they support it, then they should conduct it (caste census) across the country,” he said.
Senior BJP leader and former deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Modi, however, said that his party supports caste census but “according to the Census Act, only the Centre can conduct a caste survey.”
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 would 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 society.