Hours after part of its affidavit before the Supreme Court stated that “no other body has the authority to conduct the census exercise or any other similar action”, the Center has now dropped said paragraph. The development came after the controversial paragraph drew strong 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 informed the Supreme Court that a survey exercise on caste census in the state was conducted on August 6 and the collected data was uploaded on August 12 .
The affidavit came a week after the top court allowed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Center, to file his response to the matter within seven days of saying the investigation could have consequences.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav criticized the Center for filing the affidavit. “They don’t have any knowledge. They only know how to lie and suppress the truth. oppose it. If they support then they should conduct it (caste census) across the country,” he said.
Sushil Modi, a senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister of Bihar, however, said his party supports the caste census, but that “according to the census law, only the Center can carry out a caste survey”.
The government has stated that it is committed to taking all affirmative steps for the “improvement of SCS/STS/SEBC and OBC in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Constitution and applicable law”.
Various petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the judgment of the Patna High Court upholding the caste survey ordered by the Bihar government.
At the August 21 hearing, the highest court told the petitioners it would not suspend the exercise unless they established a prima facie case against him.
The Patna High Court had earlier dismissed appeals challenging the decision of Nitish Kumar’s government to carry out the investigation on the basis of caste. The High Court said in its 101-page verdict: “We consider that the action of the State is perfectly valid, initiated with the requisite skill for the legitimate purpose of bringing about development with justice…”.
The Bihar caste survey would cover an estimated population of 12.70 crores in about 2.58 crores of households in 38 districts, which comprise 534 city blocks and 261 urban local bodies. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar insists that the caste survey would benefit all sections of society.