The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop the Bihar Government from taking additional actions based on the findings of the caste-based survey, unveiled in October last year. Nonetheless, the court raised queries about the level of detail in the publicly available data. A bench, including Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Dipankar Dutta, addressed a series of petitions challenging the Patna High Court's dismissal of pleas opposing the state government's implementation of the caste-based survey.
SC questions availability of survey data in public domain
The petitioners requested an interim directive from the court, emphasising the urgency of the matter. This urgency arises from the recent passage of a bill by the Bihar state legislature, aiming to raise reservations for government jobs and educational institutions to 75 percent, the petition said.
Justice Khanna, however, dismissed the plea and, instead, inquired about the extent of public access to the detailed breakdown of the survey results.
"I was concerned about, more than the survey report, is the breakdown of data, which is not normally made available to the public and that leads to a lot of problems. Once you are entitled to do a survey, but then to what extent can the government withhold the breakdown of data?" Justice Khanna questioned.
Bihar says survey is a accessible to public
Representing the Bihar government, senior advocate Shyam Divan informed the bench that the survey is accessible to the public. Justice Khanna set the next hearing for February 5, stressing the need to disclose the detailed breakdown of data to the public. He stressed that, particularly when challenging specific inferences, corresponding data should be provided.
According to the caste-based survey conducted by the Bihar government, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) constitute 63 percent of the state's 13-crore population. Scheduled Castes make up over 19 percent, while Scheduled Tribes account for 1.68 percent. The upper castes, or 'savarnas,' comprise 15.52 percent of Bihar's population.