PATNA: In a key development, Supreme Court Justice Sanjay Karol has decided to withdraw from hearing a case related to the Bihar government’s caste investigation. The Patna High Court had previously ordered a suspension of the poll, and the Bihar government has appealed to the High Court.
Judge Karol, who served as chief justice of the Patna Supreme Court before being appointed to the Supreme Court on Feb. 6, said he was involved in some of the related cases before the Supreme Court in the past.
The Bihar government called the poll an ethnic poll rather than a national census. However, on May 4, the Patna High Court ruled that only the central government has the power to conduct such polls. As a result, the court suspended questioning until July 3.
Judge Karol’s refusal will refer the Bihar Government’s appeal again to the Chief Justice, who will then refer the matter to another court for further consideration.
The Bihar government recently appealed to the Supreme Court against the Patna Supreme Court’s decision to ban caste counting. This is not the first time the issue of the Bihar government’s caste investigation has been brought before the Supreme Court. Three public interest lawsuits (PILs) were filed in January seeking an injunction to start investigations. However, a panel of judges, consisting of Judges BR Gavai and Vikram Nath, dismissed these petitions, but allowed the petitioners to appeal to the Patna High Court if they wished to pursue the matter further.
With Justice Sanjay Karol stepping down, the Supreme Court will now decide how to appoint a new tribunal to hear the Bihar government’s appeals.
The Bihar government said in its appeal to the Supreme Court against the May 4 Supreme Court order that the suspension would adversely affect the exercise as a whole. The state said the collection of caste-based data is a constitutional obligation under Articles 15 and 16.
Article 15 of the Constitution states that the state shall not discriminate against its citizens on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of these grounds alone; must be given Matters relating to employment or appointment to public offices. “The state has already completed more than 80 percent of its investigation work in some counties, with less than 10 percent of the work pending final determination of disputes.