Centre withdraws affidavit in SC opposing Bihar caste-based survey (Lead)
New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) The Union government has withdrawn its affidavit filed earlier on Monday before the Supreme Court which had said that nobody except it is entitled to conduct a census or any exercise akin to a census.
“It is submitted that the Central government has filed an affidavit in the morning today…….(where), inadvertently, para 5 has crept in. The said affidavit, therefore, stands withdrawn,” said a fresh affidavit filed before the top court.
A short affidavit had been filed by the Office of the Registrar General in 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.
The reply document maintained that the subject of census is covered in the Union List under Entry 69 in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and the Census Act, 1948 “empowers only the Central Government to conduct the census”.
The paragraph saying 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or otherwise (except Centre) is entitled to conduct the exercise of either Census or any action akin to census”, has been retracted from the new affidavit filed by the Centre.
It reiterated 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 and other applicable laws.
On August 21, 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.
The Nitish Kumar-led state government has said that the caste-based survey in Bihar is complete and will be out in public soon.
The clutch of special leave petitions in Supreme Court challenges the Patna High Court’s order dismissing pleas challenging the caste-based survey in Bihar and could not be listed on Monday but were scheduled to be heard on August 28 by the top court.
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 Census in India and 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 analysis of data.
In its order passed on August 1, the Patna High Court, while dismissing the batch of pleas, had given 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 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 January 7 this year and was scheduled to be completed by 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’,” the high court had said later while dismissing the batch of pleas.