Economic Criterion cannot be sole basis for identifying creamy layer: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

The Court, therefore, quashed a notification issued by the State of Haryana specifying the criteria for exclusion of 'creamy layer' within the backward classes.
Supreme Court and Justices Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose
Supreme Court and Justices Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose

While quashing a notification issued by the State of Haryana specifying the criteria for exclusion of 'creamy layer' within the backward classes, Supreme Court on Tuesday stated that economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for identifying 'creamy layer' (Pichra Warg Kalyan Mahasabha Haryana v. State of Haryana).

A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose delivered the judgment on a batch of plea challenging a 2016 notification of the Haryana government specifying the criteria for exclusion of 'creamy layer' within the backward classes.

As per the said notification, children of persons having gross annual income up to ₹3 lakh were to get first preference to avail the benefit of reservation in services and admission in educational institutions. The remaining quota seats would go to backward classes who earn more than ₹3 lakh but up to ₹6 lakh per annum.

The Supreme Court noted that 2016 notification was in flagrant violation of the directions issued by the apex Court in Indra Sawhney-I judgment and was at variance with the memorandum dated September 8, 1993 issued by the Union of India.

"The criteria mentioned for identifying such of those persons who are socially advanced have not been taken into account by the Government of Haryana while issuing the notification dated 17.08.2016," the top court ruled.

The Court observed that in spite of Section 5(2) of the Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions) Act, 2016 making it mandatory for identification and exclusion of ‘creamy layer’ to be on the basis of social, economic and other relevant factors, the State of Haryana "has sought to determine 'creamy layer’ from backward classes solely on the basis of economic criterion and has committed a grave error in doing so."

On this ground alone, the notification requires to be set aside, the Court held.

The Court, therefore, directed Haryana Government to issue fresh notification within a period of 3 months after taking into account the principles laid down by the top court in Indra Sawhney-I and the criteria mentioned in Section 5(2) of the 2016 Act for determining ‘creamy layer’.

However, the Court also clarified that admissions to educational institutions and appointment to State services already made on the basis of the notifications shall not be disturbed.

The judgment was rendered on an appeal filed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had held that the government notification making sub-classification within the non-creamy layer segment by distinguishing those with annual income below ₹3 lakh and annual income within ₹3 -6 lakh, was unconstitutional.

The High Court had held that there was no data to justify the sub-classification within the non-creamy layer.

Besides the appeal, Pichra Warg Kalyan Mahasabha Haryana had filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court challenging the notifications.

[Read judgment]

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