Supreme Court scoffs at hike in creamy layer income bar

October 14th, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday scoffed at the central government’s recent decision to raise the annual income limit to Rs.450,000 for deciding who are the better off - forming “creamy layer” - among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and not eligible for various quotas.A five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan also indicated that the government’s decision may face a severe scrutiny by the apex court, if the same is challenged through an appropriate lawsuit.

“You file a petition, we will try to take the cream out of the creamy layer,” remarked the bench as senior counsel K.K. Venugopal apprised the court of the cabinet decision, which, he said, is aimed at defeating the purpose of the apex court’s April 10 ruling.

The ruling, upholding the law for 27 percent quota for OBC students in state-run institutions of higher learning, had stipulated that the students belonging to the creamy layer among OBC will have to be kept out of the quota.

Apprising the court of the cabinet’s decision on the enhanced income limit for the backward category people to be described as creamy layer, Venugopal pointed out several “inherent illegalities” of the decision.

He noted that the Supreme Court only last year had struck down a Kerala government’s decision to fix Rs.300,000 as the minimum income for the backward category people to be described as creamy layer among them.

The apex court had struck down the Kerala government’s decision calling it as unjustified, he said.

“Unless there is 80 percent inflation in just one year, the central government’s decision too cannot be said to be justified,” he added.

Venugopal also recalled arguments by Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam before the constitution bench during hearing of the lawsuits challenging the legality of the law reserving 27 percent seats for OBC students.

He recalled that Subramaniam had argued that 97.7 percent of backward category people earn a daily salary of Rs.80, which adds up to an annual earning of less than Rs.29,000, and thus only a few among them could be assumed to be earning Rs.450,000 annually.

This implies that virtually no backward category people could be included in the creamy layer among them and the educational quota would be virtually available for all of them.

This would defeat the very purpose of the apex court ruling, he said, adding that he would file a separate petition as soon as the government notifies its cabinet decision.

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