A division bench of Patna High Court comprising of Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad today (May 4) directed the CM Nitish Kumar-led Bihar 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.
"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.
"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 further said.
The HC bench was hearing petitions filed by a social outfit and a few 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 bench of Justices B R Gavai and Vikram Nat refused to interfere and referred them back to the high court with directions that their petition be decided expeditiously.
The first round of caste surveys in Bihar was conducted between January 7 and 21. The second round commenced on April 15 and was supposed to continue till May 15.
During the first phase of the caste survey, the counting of houses and people was done, and the ongoing second phase enumerated the caste, gender and religion of the people.
The exercise will cost the state exchequer Rs 500 crore.
The ongoing survey in Bihar lists 28 questions, including caste, gender, religion, educational and financial status.
A big votary of caste survey, CM Nitish Kumar has claimed that it is being done to ascertain the socio-economic status of people so that the government could work further on policies and programmes.
While the Union government had turned down the demand for a caste survey, the exercise in Bihar has the support of all the parties in Bihar.
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