'Not entitled': centre opposes Bihar caste-based survey in SC
"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
The Supreme Court on Monday was told by the union government that nobody except the Centre is entitled to conduct a census or any exercise akin to a census.
A short affidavit was filed by the office of the registrar general from the union home ministry in response to the batch of pleas challenging the caste-based survey in Bihar, placing the constitutional and legal position for consideration of the top court.
It said that the subject of census is covered in the Union List under Entry 69 in the VII schedule of the Constitution and the Census Act, 1948 "empowers only the Central Government to conduct the census".
"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.
It also clarified that the Central government is committed to take all affirmative actions for upliftment of SCs/STs/SEBCs and OBCs in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India and other applicable laws.
On 21 August, the Supreme Court allowed the union government a period of one week to file its reply after solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that he wanted to place on record the constitutional and legal position as the matter will have "ramifications".
The clutch of special leave petitions in the Supreme Court challenges Patna High Court’s order dismissing pleas challenging the caste-based survey in Bihar.
The pleas could not be listed on Monday but were scheduled to be heard on 28 August.
The petitioners before the apex court argued that the survey process violated the privacy law and only the Union government had the authority to conduct a census in India, adding that the state government had no authority to decide and notify the conduct of caste-based survey in Bihar.
The top court had repeatedly refused to pass any interim order staying the survey process or publication of the outcomes of the survey, though it was contended that the matter will become infructuous post publication of the data.
The Nitish Kumar-led state government has said that the caste-based survey in Bihar is complete and will be out in public soon.
In its order passed on 1 August, Patna High Court, while dismissing the batch of pleas, had given a green signal to the state government’s decision to conduct the survey.
The Bihar government resumed the process on the same day following the high court verdict, while directing completion of the remainder of the survey process within three days.
Earlier, the high court had ordered an interim stay on the survey which had started on 7 January this year and was scheduled to be completed by 15 May. "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 high court had said later, while dismissing the batch of pleas.