The debate over conducting a caste census has taken a new turn as the Centre firmly asserts that only it holds the authority to carry out such an exercise. In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the Centre cited the Census Act of 1948, which empowers the Union Government exclusively to conduct the census. This development poses a challenge to the Bihar government, which had previously undertaken surveys and data collection for a caste census.
The Bihar government had earlier informed the Supreme Court that it had conducted surveys for the caste census within the state by August 6 and subsequently uploaded the gathered data by August 12. The Centre’s latest stand comes after the Supreme Court had granted Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, seven days to respond to the issue. Today marks the end of that seven-day period.
Reacting to the Centre’s affidavit, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav criticized the move, accusing the Centre of deceit and opposing the caste census. He remarked, “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.”
Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Modi, countered Yadav’s statement by clarifying that while the BJP supports the idea of a caste census, the Census Act dictates that only the Centre has the authority to conduct such a survey.
In its affidavit, the Central Government emphasized its commitment to the welfare and upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in accordance with the Constitution of India and applicable laws.
The issue of caste census has sparked multiple petitions in the Supreme Court, challenging the Patna High Court’s decision to uphold the caste survey ordered by the Bihar Government. In a hearing on August 21, the Supreme Court informed the petitioners that it would not halt the exercise unless a prima facie case against it was presented.
Previously, the Patna High Court had dismissed pleas challenging the Nitish Kumar government’s decision to conduct the survey based on castes. The high court’s verdict had stated, “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 caste survey, proposed by the Bihar government, is intended to cover an estimated population of 12.70 crores in around 2.58 crore households across 38 districts, encompassing 534 blocks and 261 urban local bodies. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has asserted that the caste survey would be advantageous for all sections of society. As legal and political debates continue, the outcome of this dispute could have significant implications for the understanding of social dynamics in the state and beyond.
Sources By Agencies