THE CONTEXT: A proposal to revise the criteria for defining the “creamy layer” among OBCs has been pending for years, and MPs have raised the issue during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament.
WHAT IS THE CREAMY LAYER?
- It is a concept that sets a threshold within which OBC reservation benefits are applicable.
- While there is a 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and higher educational institutions, those falling within the “creamy layer” cannot get the benefits of this quota.
- Based on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission), the government on August 13, 1990 had notified 27% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in vacancies in civil posts and services that are to be filled on direct recruitment.
- After this was challenged, the Supreme Court on November 16, 1992 (Indira Sawhney case) upheld 27% reservation for OBCs, subject to exclusion of the creamy layer.
HOW IS IT DETERMINED?
- Following the order in Indra Sawhney, an expert committee headed by Justice (retired) R N Prasad was constituted for fixing the criteria for determining the creamy layer.
- On September 8, 1993, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) listed out various categories of people of certain rank/status/income whose children cannot avail benefit of OBC reservation.
- For those not in government, the current threshold is an income of Rs 8 lakh per year.
- For children of government employees, the threshold is based on their parents’ rank and not income.
- For instance, an individual is considered to fall within the creamy layer if either of his or her parents is in a constitutional post; if either parent has been directly recruited in Group-A; or if both parents are in Group-B services.
- If the parents enters Group-A through promotion before the age of 40, their children will be in the creamy layer.
- Children of a Colonel or higher-ranked officer in the Army, and children of officers of similar ranks in the Navy and Air Force, too, come under the creamy layer.
- There are other criteria as well.
- Income from salaries or agriculture land is not clubbed while determining the creamy layer, according to a DoPT clarification issued on October 14, 2004.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?
- During the Monsoon Session, MPs raised two questions about the pending proposal for revising the criteria.
- In response, the government said “A proposal for revision of the income criteria for determining the Creamy Layer amongst the OBCs is under consideration of the Government.”
- In Rajya Sabha, three MPs have asked whether the provision of creamy layer for government services only for OBC candidates is rational and justified.
- On July 22, Minister of State Jitendra Singh referred to the Indira Sawhney ruling.
- He said that in Civil Service batches between 2015 and 2019, 63 candidates selected for IAS were not given appointment because “they were treated as falling under creamy layer”.
- Other than the income limit, the current definition of creamy layer remains the same as the DoPT had spelt out on September 8, 1993 and clarified on October 14, 2004.
- No other orders for definition of creamy layer have been issued by the government.