SC declines to entertain petitions against caste-based census in Bihar

SC declines to entertain petitions against caste-based census in Bihar
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New Delhi, Jan 20: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain petitions challenging the Bihar government's decision to conduct a caste-based census.

A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Vikram Nath said the court was not inclined to entertain submissions made by counsel, representing the petitioners and orally observed, "So, this is a publicity interest litigation?"

After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court asked the counsel to move the high court and dismissed all petitions as withdrawn. "Learned counsel for the petitioner seeks permission to withdraw these writ petitions with liberty to approach the jurisdictional High Court. Permission is granted. Hence, these writ petitions are dismissed as withdrawn with liberty as prayed for," said the apex court, in its order.

The petitions sought a direction from the apex court to quash the Bihar government's notification to conduct the caste-based census.

On January 11, the apex court agreed to examine a plea seeking quashing the Bihar government's decision to conduct a caste survey in the state.

The plea sought quashing of the notification issued by the Deputy Secretary, government of Bihar, in connection with a caste survey in the state and to restrain the authorities concerned from conducting the exercise. It added that there is no provision in the Constitution regarding caste configuration.

The plea, filed by Akhilesh Kumar, argued that the move was also against the basic structure of the Constitution, besides being "illegal, arbitrary, irrational, discriminatory and unconstitutional".

It contended that according to Section 3 of the Census Act, 1948, the Centre is empowered to take census in the whole or any part of the territory of India. It further added that the scheme of the Act establishes that caste census is not contemplated in the law and the state government has no authority in law to conduct caste census.

The plea claimed that the notification dated June 6, 2022, violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality before law and equal protection of the law.

"The state government by executive orders cannot conduct caste census in the absence of legislation on the subject. The impugned notification for caste census in the State of Bihar lacks statutory flavour and constitutional sanction," it claimed.

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