Setback to Nitish Kumar: Patna HC stays Bihar govt's caste survey
The court fixed July 7 as the next date for the hearing
The Patna High Court on Thursday ordered a stay on the caste survey being conducted by the state government.
Hearing a bunch of petitions, a division bench of Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad directed the government to immediately stop the caste-based survey, and ensure that the data already collected are secured and not shared with anybody till final orders are passed.
The court fixed July 7 as the next date for the hearing.
Also Read: Why a caste census matters
"We are of the considered opinion that the petitioners have made out a prima facie case against the continuation of the process of caste-based survey, as attempted by the State of Bihar. There is also the question raised of data integrity and security which has to be more elaborately addressed by the State," the court said.
"Prima facie, we are of the opinion that the State has no power to carry out a caste-based survey, in the manner in which it is fashioned now, which would amount to a census, thus impinging upon the legislative power of the Union Parliament," it added.
Expressing concern, the court noted the government's intention to share data from the survey with the leaders of different parties in the state assembly.
"There definitely arises the larger question of the right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has held to be a facet of right to life," it said.
The first round of caste survey in Bihar was conducted between January 7 and 21. The second round started on April 15 and was supposed to continue till May 15.
The petitions before the high court was filed by a social outfit and some individuals, who had last month moved the Supreme Court after their request for an 'interim relief' in the form of a stay on the survey was turned down.
The apex court refused to interfere as well, and referred them back to the high court with directions that their petition be decided expeditiously.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has maintained that the state is not conducting a caste census but only collecting information related to people's economic status and their caste so that specific steps could be taken by the government to serve them better.
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