Today, the top Court adjourned the petition filed by the State of Bihar against the interim order of the Patna High Court staying the decision of the Bihar Government to conduct a caste-based survey in the State. The bench including Justice Rajesh Bindal and AS Oka said that “Why should we interfere at this stage. The High Court will go into it on 3rd July…High Court has recorded prima facie findings. We are not saying we will affirm the findings or we would interfere. We are only saying that it is difficult to grant today. We are not saying that we will not hear it.” The Supreme Court said that if High Court does not take the matter on July 3rd then the top Court bench will hear the arguments on July 14.
During the proceedings, a Senior Advocate appearing for Bihar Government, Shyam Divan, argued that the resources were already mobilized for conducting the survey and the High Court ought not to have stayed it. In this context, the bench stated that “A lot of documents show it is census only.” The bench ordered, “We direct that this petition be listed on 14th July. If for any reason hearing of the writ petition does not commence before the next date we will hear further submission canvassed by the Senior Counsel for the petitioner.” Divan further submitted that “This is the first point of distinction. For census you have respond. If you don’t you are met with penalty. Not so for a survey. There are three constitutional entries in List III which supports inquiries and collection of data.”
Concerning privacy, Divan stated that “Data would be stored only on the servers of the Govt of Bihar and not on any other cloud…It is a full-proof system. We are open to suggestions by the Court.” Justice Oka determined that there are various difficulties faced by the High Court with the survey. He added, “The manner in which the data has to be counter-checked. High Court found fault with that. This all required to be tested.” The High 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.” Hearing the arguments, the bench ordered to hear the matter on 14 July if High Court fails to hear the petitions on July 3rd.