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Updated January 2nd, 2024 at 17:15 IST

Supreme Court asks Bihar government to release break-up of caste survey data

The directive comes as a response to petitions challenging both the caste survey and the Patna High Court's affirmation.

Isha Bhandari
Supreme Court
Supreme Court | Image:PTI
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday has instructed the Bihar government to make public the detailed break-up of the caste survey data. The directive comes as a response to petitions challenging both the caste survey and the Patna High Court's affirmation of the state government's decision to conduct the controversial exercise.

Interim relief to petitioners declined 

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, comprising the bench, declined interim relief to the petitioners but emphasized the importance of scrutinizing the legality and correctness of the high court judgment. The bench noted, "There is no question of interim relief as they (the government) have a high court order in their favor."

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandaran, representing the petitioners, highlighted that the authorities had already begun implementing the survey data, leading to an increase in reservations for various categories. The bench acknowledged the significance of this issue, stating that it needs to be examined at length.

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Concerns were raised about the increased reservation, with the bench advising the petitioners to challenge it before the high court. Shyam Divan, senior advocate for the Bihar government, informed the court that the data, including the break-up, is available on the designated website for public scrutiny.

Justice Khanna expressed apprehension about the availability of the break-up of data, emphasizing that it should be in the public domain to enable challenges to the conclusions drawn from it. The ongoing dispute over the caste survey has been a contentious issue, with the BJP accusing the Nitish Kumar government of irregularities and labeling the data as "fake."

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The Supreme Court directed Shyam Divan to file a report on the caste survey and scheduled further hearings for February 5. The case dates back to October 6, 2023, when the court questioned the Bihar government's decision to publish the caste survey data. Despite refusing to restrain further publication, the court signaled a potential examination of the state's authority to conduct such surveys.

On October 2, 2023, the Nitish Kumar government released the findings of the caste survey, revealing that OBCs and EBCs constituted a substantial 63 percent of the state's population. The survey also detailed the demographic distribution of various castes in Bihar.

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Several petitions challenging the survey, including one by NGO 'Ek Soch Ek Paryas,' have been filed, raising constitutional concerns. The Patna High Court, in its verdict, deemed the state's actions valid, undertaken with the legitimate aim of providing development with justice. The Supreme Court, in its previous rulings, has refused to stay the high court's order allowing the caste survey to proceed.

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Published January 2nd, 2024 at 17:15 IST

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