Income and quotas

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Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Fundamental rights

Relevance: To understand dimensions of creamy layer

Synopsis: Supreme Court (SC) lays bare the limit of using economic criteria to determine reservation ability

SC ruled that economic criteria alone cannot be used to classify “creamy layer” members of Backward Class (BC). Apart from the economic criterion, social, educational and other factors must also be taken into account before defining a “creamy layer” among the backward classes.

Indra Sawhney (1992) case judgement

  • The idea of including groups based on backwardness was marked with idea to exclude groups that are well-off.
  • Court introduced the concept of “Creamy layer” – the well-off community amongst the BC.
  • These are persons of high-ranking constitutional functionaries, significant property & agricultural holders, employees of certain ranks in State or Centre government and an identified annual income.
  • Court ruled that these sections should be denied the reservation benefits as they are advanced sections among the BC and formulated criteria for identifying them.

SC judgement in Haryana case

  • It corrected the error by the State which fixed income (6 Lakh) as the sole criteria for identifying the creamy layer which was contrary to Indra Sawhney judgement
  • SC ruled that Haryana’s criteria based on income alone were contrary to its own law that specifies creamy layer would be identified through socio, economic and other factors.

Constitutional Provisions

These rulings were based on the ideas of the constitution.

  • Constitution has provided special provisions through 1st Amendment Act in favor of “socially and educationally backward classes”.
  • This was extended further by providing reservation in government employment for BC.
  • However, later Judiciary introduced 50% ceiling and creamy layer concept as constitutional limitation on reservation benefits.
  • However, 103AA, which introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker section has significantly altered the affirmative action programme.

Way Forward

  • There is strange questionable balance between OBC and EWS.
  • So creamy layer definition for OBC should go beyond economic parameters.
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