01-10-2018-SC order: Government in a bind on SC/ST creamy layer
The Times of India: 01.10.2018
NEW DELHI: The government is in a quandary over what to do with the Supreme Court order extending the concept of creamy layer to Scheduled Castes and Tribes — an unprecedented decision which upends the accepted wisdom about Dalit quotas and holds the potential to rile the vocal Dalit middle class.
Government sources conceded the SC judgment had come at a difficult juncture and finding a way out of it would be difficult, while stating that the adjudication on ‘creamy layer’ went against the belief in the ruling camp.
Given the judicial determination and the political context, the Centre does not have easy options.
An appeal against an order of the constitution bench, which itself is an appeal against the 2006 Nagaraj judgment, appears improbable. The margin to seek a judicial relief to undo the ‘creamy layer’ ruling is viewed as very slim, if not absent.
It leaves the ruling BJP with tricky alternatives of either accepting the SC verdict or, as some experts argue, of sitting on it till it gets a reminder from the top court.
The court order inserting the principle of ‘creamy layer’ among SCs/STs has already brought out angry reactions from top Dalit voices in politics and civil society.
The execution of the court verdict will only instigate agitation among the vocal middle classes that lead the Dalit bloc and which belong to dominant SC communities that wield political muscle.
What will also constrain the government from coming up with any imaginative solution to overturn ‘creamy layer’ in Dalit quota is the fact that upper castes seem to have an obsession with seeing it implemented.
The BJP government’s recent decision to overturn the apex court’s dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has already touched off an upper caste backlash in key heartland states, putting the saffron camp on alert.
Another pro-active measure to weaken the checks on Dalit quota will only add to the anger among upper castes in the busy election season.
It is not for nothing that neither the ruling BJP nor the opposition Congress have spoken on the court judgment.
The only voices in the open are of Dalit leaders angry with the court ruling.
Given the apprehension of exacerbating the ‘Dalit vs upper caste’ faultline and being caught in the crossfire, some experts say the Centre can sit on the court order and tide over the political season.
The political realities have made the apex court ruling on creamy layer a hot potato for parties but the BJP government carries a greater risk of blowback from whatever route it takes to act on the court verdict.
Sources said the top echelons of the ruling camp would soon deliberate on the issue.
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