Why in News?

The Central Government has demanded for a review of 2018 Supreme Court Verdict in Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Gupta Case, related to reservations in promotions for SC/ST about creamy layer in Promotions.


Waiting for the verdict | Reservations in promotions for SC/ST


Nagaraj vs Union of India Case (2006)

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of reservations for SCs and STs to include promotions with three conditions:

  1. Quantifiable data on the backwardness of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST)
  2. The facts about their inadequate representation
  3. The overall administrative efficiency

What is Creamy Layer

  • The concept has its genesis in the Indira Sawhney Case (1992). Supreme Court asked the Government to define the criteria by fixation of income, property or status.
  • Currently creamy layer criteria is applicable to Other backward classes (OBCs) in reservation.
  • At present, Group A and Group B officers of both Central and State Government, Employees of Armed Forces and PSUs along with people earning more than 8 lakh per annum come under the purview of Creamy layer.

Center’s Contention about reservations in promotions for SC/ST:

The Center approached supreme Court that the verdict in the M Nagraj case put unnecessary conditions in granting quota benefits, as it affects the reservations in promotions for SC/ST.  Thus, In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Gupta Case (2018) Supreme Court allowed for grant of quota for promotions in the government jobs to SCs and STs without the need to “collect quantifiable data”. The court also asked the government to examine the possibility of introducing creamy layer for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) by saying that if some sections bag all the coveted jobs, it will leave the rest of the class as backward as they always were.

  • It declined the demand to refer the case to a 7 judge bench to reconsider its 2006 Nagaraj judgement.
  • Now, the union government has urged the court to reconsider the ruling and refer the issue to a seven-judge Bench.

Arguments for applying the Creamy Layer concept to SCs/STs

  • Improved income and status: The creamy layer within the SCs and STs has improved socio-economic mobility and by that virtue does not face discrimination of similar intensity.
  • Article 335: It states that Affirmative action should be subject to the overall efficiency of Public Administration. Reservation in promotions may affect the merit-based culture of the organization.
  • Prioritizing most marginalized: Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh Case Judgement noted that the benefits, by and large are snatched away by the top creamy layer of the backward caste or class, keeping the weakest among the weak always weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the whole cake.

Arguments for not applying the Creamy Layer concept to SCs/STs

  • Discrimination within service: It is argued that there is widespread discrimination within services. For example, there are about 12,000 cases lying with the SC/ST Commission, complaining about discrimination in service.
  • Not Anti-poverty programme: Reservation for Dalits is not to undo economic backwardness but as a remedy for societal discrimination based on untouchability. Thus, it may not possess a direct correlation with economic status.
  • Difference between OBCs and SCs: OBCs don’t face the kind and extent of discrimination faced by SCs. Generally, if OBCs manage to cross a certain economic threshold, the extent of social discrimination reduces substantially.

Way Forward

  • Consultative Approach: Reservation is a very sensitive topic, thus any decision on it should be in consultation with all the stakeholders.
  • Strengthening Other tools: like encouraging Dalit Entrepreneurship, providing loans (E.g. Stand-up India Scheme), Increasing awareness etc. can also indirectly improve the Socio-Economic mobility of Dalits.