Reservations in promotions: Centre seeks SC/ST creamy layer review
The Central government on Monday asked the Supreme Court to set up a larger bench to decide the exclusion of the so-called creamy layer for reservation benefits to people from the scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) communities.
During the hearing of a petition filed by the Samta Andolan Samiti, the centre’s top law officer, attorney general KK Venugopal told the apex court on Monday that a bench of seven judges should be set up to revisit the 2018 ruling in the Jarnail Singh case. That ruling said the principle of a creamy layer should be applied to SC/ST communities for reservation in promotions.
At the heart of the 2018 verdict lay a judgment delivered 12 years previously. The 2006 judgment in the M Nagaraj v. Union of India case effectively ruled that SC and ST employees could get guaranteed promotions only if the government produced hard data to demonstrate “compelling reasons” for such reservation.
The Supreme Court last year turned down the request for a larger bench to revisit the 2006 verdict but ruled that there was no need to provide “quantifiable data” to show that the communities needed the affirmative action.However, it also ruled that the creamy layer principle, previously applicable only to Other Backward Classes would also be applicable to SC/STs.
For OBCs, the creamy layer is households with annual income in excess of Rs 8 lakh a year.
The petitioner , Samta Andolan Samiti contended that benefits accorded to SC/STs in reservation and other government schemes do not reach people who are actually in need of the same and are restricted to the creamy layer amongst those communities. Almost 95% of the SC/ST community does not receive the benefit of such reservations, it added.
The central government has maintained throughout that the creamy layer rule should not apply to SC/ STs. During the hearing on Monday, attorney general KK Venugopal handed over to the bench, the questions to be considered by the court if the matter is referred to a larger bench.
The petitioner, represented by senior counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan, opposed the reference to a larger bench.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant ordered the case to be listed after two weeks and asked the petitioner to raise objections when the matter is taken up.
Creamy layer is the term used to describe better-off individuals among OBCs who are ineligible for reservations as per the Mandal Commission report. The Centre has been against extending this principle to the quotas for SCs and STs.
The 2018 judgment in the Jarnail Singh case ruled that the state need not collect quantifiable data to justify reservations. At the same time, it also ruled that the application of the creamy layer principle to SC/STs would be within the mandate of right to equality envisaged by Article 14 of the Constitution.
“Creamy layer is determined based on economic parameters. But the object of reservation is to do away with socio-cultural discrimination that SC/ST communities have faced for the past thousands of years. Even today, we see that many students from SC/ST communities who are not in financially disadvantaged position face systemic discrimination. In such a scenario, the request by attorney general to reconsider Jarnail Singh cannot be faulted.” said Sophy KJ, an assistant professor at Delhi’s National Law University.
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