SC refuses to stay publication of caste-based survey results in Bihar

Notably, the caste-based survey in Bihar has been completed and its results are expected to be out soon in the public domain

Representative image (Photo: IANS)
Representative image (Photo: IANS)


The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any interim direction requiring the Bihar government to abstain from publishing the results of the caste-based survey.

“We will not stay anything, unless there is a strong prima facie case,” told a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and S.V.N. Bhatti to the petitioners, who had filed special leave petitions against the Patna High Court’s order dismissing pleas challenging the caste-based survey in Bihar.

Notably, the caste-based survey in Bihar has been completed and its results are expected to be out soon in the public domain.

Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, arguing for petitioners, said that no law was passed by the state legislature to initiate the survey and the process commenced after an executive notification was issued by the state government, thus violating privacy.

“Right to privacy cannot be infringed upon except for under a fair, just, and reasonable law with legitimate aim. It cannot be done through an executive order,” he argued. 

At this, the bench said: “This is not a quasi-judicial order but an administrative order. There is no need to communicate reasons.” 

It further said that publication of data will not affect individual’s privacy as data of individuals will not come up, but cumulative breakup or analysis of the entire data will be published. 

The top court could not hear the argument on behalf of the both sides due to paucity of time as the matter was listed at the end of board. It directed that the batch of pleas will be posted for hearing on Monday, August 21. 

Earlier on August 14, the top court adjourned the hearing and directed that all similar special leave petitions be re-listed on August 18. 

The Supreme Court had repeatedly refused to pass any interim order staying the survey process, though it was contended that the pleas will become infructuous after the state government had issued notification on August 1 to complete the remainder of the survey process within three days. 

The special leave petitions filed before the Supreme Court said that only the Union has the authority to conduct Census in India and the state government had no authority to decide and notify the conduct of caste-based survey in Bihar.

In its decision passed on August 1, the Patna High Court, while dismissing the batch of pleas, gave a green signal to the Nitish Kumar-led state government’s decision to conduct the survey. The Bihar government resumed the process on the same day following the High Court verdict.

Earlier, the High Court had ordered an interim stay on the survey which had started on January 7 this year and was scheduled to be completed on May 15.

“We find the action of the State to be perfectly valid, initiated with due competence, with the legitimate aim of providing ‘Development with Justice’,” said the High Court later while dismissing the batch of pleas.

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