New Delhi: The Union government on Monday told the Supreme Court that the exclusive authority to conduct a census or similar exercises lies solely with it. The statement was made through a brief affidavit submitted by the Office of the Registrar General, under the Union Home Ministry. The affidavit was presented in response to a series of pleas challenging the caste-based survey in Bihar, news agency IANS reported. This submission aims to present the constitutional and legal framework to the apex court for its consideration.
The affidavit highlighted that the subject of the census falls under the Union List’s Entry 69 in the VII Schedule of the Constitution. The Census Act of 1948 empowers only the Union Government to conduct census-related activities.
“It is submitted that no other body under the Constitution or otherwise (except Centre) is entitled to conduct the exercise of either Census or any action akin to census,” the affidavit stated, as quoted by news agency IANS.
Additionally, it emphasised that the Union government remains committed to taking affirmative actions for the advancement of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in accordance with the Indian Constitution and other applicable laws.
On August 21, the Supreme Court granted the Union government a week’s time to submit its response. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had expressed the intention to present the constitutional and legal context due to the potential “ramifications” of the case, as per an IANS report.
A set of special leave petitions were filed before the Supreme Court, challenging the Patna High Court’s dismissal of pleas against the caste-based survey in Bihar.
The petitioners argued that the survey violated privacy laws and stressed that only the Union government holds the authority to conduct a census in India. They contended that the state government lacks the power to decide and initiate a caste-based survey, IANS reported.
The Supreme Court has so far refrained from issuing interim orders to halt the survey process or the publication of survey outcomes even as it was stated that the dispute might become irrelevant once the survey data is released.
BJP Opposing Bihar Caste Survey, Says Deputy CM Tejashwi As Sushi Modi Contradicts Claim
In response to the Centre’s affidavit, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav told news agency ANI, “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 and is opposing it. If they support it, then they should conduct it (caste survey) across the country.”
“BJP and Sangh (RSS) don’t want it. It is a survey,” said RJD chief and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi interpreted the affidavit as supporting the caste survey as he said, “Under the Census Act, only the Centre has the right to conduct the census. However, anyone is free to conduct surveys and collect data. BJP was saying that this is a survey and not a census. Patna High Court said the same thing that the State has the right to conduct a survey and not a census… The Centre filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court according to the stand taken by the BJP in Bihar.”
“I hope that the Supreme Court will soon give its judgment in support of caste census like the Bihar High Court. The BJP in favor of caste census,” he told ANI.
In its order passed on August 1, the Patna High Court, while dismissing the batch of pleas, had given a green signal to the state government’s decision to conduct the survey.
In its 101-page verdict, the high court had said: “We find the action of the state to be perfectly valid, initiated with due competence with the legitimate aim of providing development with justice…”, news agency PTI reported.
The Bihar government resumed the process on the same day following the high court verdict.
The caste survey data collected during the survey has been uploaded on the BIJAGA (Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana) app.
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