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Bihar Caste Survey: Supreme Court directs listing of all petitions for collective hearing on August 18

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The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned hearing on a petition challenging the Patna High Court order, which upheld the caste-based survey being conducted by the State of Bihar and directed the Registry to list all petitions pending on the matter together for hearing on August 18.

The order was passed by the Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti on a petition filed by non-governmental organisation ‘Ek Soch Ek Prayas’. 

As the Apex Court proceeded to defer the hearing, a counsel contended that the pleas may become infructuous till then since the Bihar government had directed the caste survey to be concluded post-haste after receiving the High Court approval. 

However, the top court of the country told him to wait till Friday.

It further refused to grant any interim relief as requested by Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, noting that it would amount to an indirect stay without hearing the other side or application of mind. 

Earlier on August 7, the Apex Court had adjourned the NGO’s plea for August 14 after Senior Advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan sought an adjournment on account of another petition challenging the same verdict not being listed on the same day.

During the course of hearing, another counsel urged the Apex Court for status quo order. 

However, the Apex Court expressed its displeasure over the request, saying that it had not issued a notice into the matter and was yet to hear the petitioner. 

Directing the counsel not to ‘jump the gun,’ the Bench said that as per the High Court verdict, 80 percent of the survey work had been completed. It would be 90 percent complete by the end of August 7, noted the Apex Court.

On August 1, the Bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Partha Sarthy of the Patna High Court had upheld the caste-based survey being undertaken by the state of Bihar, calling it totally legal and valid.

The High Court had reserved its verdict on July 8 on a batch of petitions challenging the Bihar government’s two-phase survey.

After hearing detailed arguments for five days, the Bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Partha Sarthy reserved its verdict on eight pleas, which challenged various aspects of the survey.

The state government rolled out the first phase of the survey on January 7, under which a household counting exercise was taken up. It ended on January 21. 

The second phase of the survey started on April 15, wherein information was collected about the caste of people and their socio-economic conditions. The entire exercise was scheduled to end by May this year.

However on May 4, the High Court of Patna ordered an immediate stay on the second phase of caste census till July 3. The Bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad directed that the data collected so far be preserved.

The High Court had passed the order on three petitions filed against the caste-based census in the state by social outfit Youth for Equality and some individuals. 

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