November 21, 2023
symbolizing justice and order

It appears that the Indian Constitution is the first to specifically mention affirmative action in relation to reservation. Affirmative action envisions positive actions on the part of the state to assist an individual in development and progress, as opposed to prohibition, which calls for restrictions on the construction of handicaps or hindrances by the state in that regard.

The framers of the Constitution understood that for certain segments of the population, simply being granted freedom from restrictions and the ability to pursue their legal objectives would not be significant. Therefore, they imposed an obligation on the state to take proactive measures to elevate these segments to a level where they can enjoy their freedom and liberty on a fairly equal basis.

Creamy Layer: About

  • The “creamy layer” refers to the relatively small group of individuals at the top of the social ladder in a marginalized neighborhood.
  • It would comprise members of the community who are children of Supreme Court justices, high-ranking administrators, and military officers below colonel.
  • According to the creamy layer test introduced in the case of Indra Sawhney that is often discussed by the teachers from RJS Coaching institutes, a candidate cannot use reservation in government employment or educational institutions unless their income is below a specific threshold.

Creamy Layer: Determination Test

  • Some States, including Kerala, failed to quickly put the above SC directive, which identified and excluded the Creamy Layer, into effect. This resulted in the 2000 report of the case of Indra Sawhney-II. In this case, the court even determined which Backward Classes comprise the “creamy layer.”
  • According to the ruling, those from the classes holding positions in more prestigious services, such as the IAS, IPS, and All India Services, had advanced in their social and economic standing and were hence not eligible to be classified as backward. These people were to be regarded as the “creamy layer” and not be investigated further.
  • Similarly, anyone who earned enough money to be able to hire others ought to be considered as having attained a higher social rank and classified as being “outside the Backward Class.”
  • Individuals with larger agricultural holdings or property income were among the other categories.
  • Therefore, it is clear from reading the Indra Sawhney rulings that identifying the “creamy layer” required social advancement, including work and education, rather than just financial gain.

Why “Creamy Layer” Should be Excluded from Reservation?

  • Identification has proven to be a difficult problem as per the knowledge of various expert teachers from RJS Coaching institutes. The central query here is: What level of wealth or sophistication is necessary for a Backward Class segment to be eligible for reservation exclusion?
  • Stated differently, the question of “how and when to draw the line” between the worthy and the creamy layer gets difficult when identification is based solely on economic factors.
  • In the case of Indra Sawhney’s decision, Justice Reddy emphasized the dangers of classifying a creamy layer solely based on its economic worth.
  • In rural India, for instance, someone making ₹36,000 per month may be considered well off. That said, the same wage in a big metropolis might not mean much.
  • Someone from the Backward Class, such as a carpenter caste, travels to the Middle East & works as a carpenter there. By Indian standards, his yearly income in Rupees would be considered relatively high. There is a quandary regarding his exclusion from the Backward Class based only on economic factors.
  • Justice Jeevan Reddy made the observation that exclusion should not be based only on economic factors, unless, of course, growth in the economy is so great that it inevitably leads to advancement in society as well.

In the case of T.N. Khosa, the Supreme Court issued a warning, stating that we should not develop a philosophy of classification that could undermine the priceless guarantee of equality. Therefore, the argument is in favor of keeping the creamy layer outside of the reservation system rather than the reservation system as a whole.

As discussed by various experts in RJS Coaching institutes, since the goal of excluding the creamy layer subclass is to encourage equality among equals, it makes sense that those who are perceived as unequal would disagree with the policy choices. Unfortunately, these people are inextricably linked to the powerful social class, and as such, they contribute to the continuation of the non-exclusionary reservation status quo.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that the creamy layer must be excluded in order to identify those who are actually socially, educationally, and economically backward, the government’s inaction in specific reserves overrides this ruling. Regardless of whether a reserve falls under Articles 14, 15, or 16, the idea should be applied equally to all beneficiaries of reservations. This is because all of these articles must be read in their entirety.

Leave a Comment