National

Centre opposes ‘creamy layer’ bar for SCs/STs

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Union government on Wednesday opposed the idea of a "creamy layer" within the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.

The government told a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra that the principle of creamy layer cannot be applied to the presidential order on quota for SC/ST groups.

The court was hearing a petition to exclude the affluent members or the “creamy layer” of the SC and ST communities from accessing the reservation benefits.

The Mandal judgment had confined the exclusion of 'creamy layer' only to the OBCs and not the SC/STs. Now, the petition wants the same exclusion from quota benefits to the 'creamy layer' among the SC/STs too.

Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha said the government would not do anything to dilute the benefits due to SC/STs.

The Bench asked the government to file a categorical affidavit.

'Rich snatching away the benefits'

The petition filed by Samta Andolan Samiti, which represents the poor and downtrodden strata of the SC/ST communities in Rajasthan, contended that the rich among such communities were “snatching away” quota benefits while the deserving and impoverished among them continue to “bite the dust”.

It is this lack of percolation of reservation benefits down to the poor and really backward among the SC/ST communities that had led to social unrest, Naxalite movements and perennial poverty, the petition, filed by advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Shobhit Tiwari, said.

This is the first time such a petition has been filed urging the Supreme Court to introduce the 'creamy layer' concept to the SCs/STs.

In 1992, a nine-judge Bench of the court in the Indra Sawhney case, or the Mandal case (as it was popularly known), upheld the caste-based reservation for the OBCs as valid. The court also said the 'creamy layer' of the OBCs (those earning a specified income) should not get the benefits of reservation.

Scrutiny of assets

The Samiti's petition refers to the Constitution Bench’s 2006 judgment in the M. Nagaraj case that the “means test [a scrutiny of the value of assets of an individual claiming reservation] should be taken into consideration to exclude the creamy layer from the group earmarked for reservation.”

“The uplifted/affluent and advanced sections of the SCs/STs snatch away the maximum benefit and the 95% members of these communities are at a disadvantage. The affluent among the SCs/STs are siphoning off the reservation benefits given to them by the State government as well as the Central government... The benefits of the reservation policy are not percolating down to the people who are in actual need of them,” the petition argues. This lack of percolation of quota benefits to the poorest of the poor ensures that the “weak always remains the weak and the fortunate layers consume the whole cake.”

It said that no class or caste remains homogeneously backward across time. Only the backward portion of castes included in the list of SCs/STs alone are constitutionally entitled to get the benefit of reservation.

The petition refers to the report of the Centre's 'Advisory Committee on the revision of the list of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes', also known as Lokur Committee, set up in 1965, which said that “backwardness has a tendency to perpetuate itself and those who are listed as backward try to remain as such due to various concessions and benefits they derive. Thus, backwardness becomes a vested interest”.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 7:54:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-opposes-scst-creamy-layers-exclusion-from-quota/article23372472.ece

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