On Tuesday (2 January), the Supreme Court requested that the Bihar government publicly disclose the details of the caste survey data. This would allow those who are dissatisfied with the results to contest the findings.
The duo of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta declined to provide any immediate assistance to the plaintiffs who contested the caste survey and the Patna High Court's ruling that supported the Bihar government's decision to carry out such a procedure.
The bench declared there's no possibility for temporary relief since the government holds a favorable high court order. However, since the data has been made public, a couple of aspects persist. The first one pertains to the legal issue - the accuracy of the high court's decision and the lawfulness of such an action.
Raju Ramachandaran, the senior advocate representing the petitioners, indicated that the authorities have begun implementing the recently released survey data.
Consequently, the reservation percentages for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) have increased from the current 50 per cent to a total of 75 per cent.
The court asserted that this matter requires extensive deliberation, Indian Express reported.
Regarding the matter of expanding the reservation, the bench informed Ramachandaran that it must be contested in the high court. Ramachandaran responded by stating that the issue has already been brought before the high court.
Ramachandaran emphasised the significance of the issue, noting that as the state government is responding to the data, the matter should be scheduled for next week. This will allow the petitioners to make their case for temporary relief.
Shyam Divan, a senior advocate representing the Bihar government, stated that the data, with its detailed breakdown, has been made publicly accessible. It can be viewed by anyone on the specified website.
Justice Khanna expressed his concern over the accessibility of data breakdowns, questioning the government's ability to withhold such information. He emphasised that all data should be publicly accessible, enabling anyone to challenge any conclusions drawn from it.
Without public access, he argued, such challenges are impossible. The Bihar government, led by Nitish Kumar, has been accused by the BJP, the primary opposition party, of conducting a caste survey with irregularities and producing "fake" data.
The court subsequently requested Divan to submit a report on the caste survey, scheduling the next hearing on the issue for 5 February.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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