Caste and Justice in the Rawlsian Theoretical Framework: Dilemmas on the Creamy Layer and Reservations in Promotions
Ira Chadha-Sridhar & Sachi Shah*
Volume 10 Issue 2 (2017)
In contemporary times, there has been constant debate on the legitimacy and efficacy of caste-based affirmative action systems in India. The Supreme Court has laid down the ‘creamy layer’ exclusionary principle that has caused a nation-wide stir. Additionally, in March 2016, the Supreme Court issued a controversial judgment on reservation in promotions in the matter of Suresh Chand Gautam v. State of Uttar Pradesh. In the backdrop of these developments, this paper is an intervention that locates affirmative action policies within the Rawlsian theoretical framework on justice. In the course of this paper, we provide a critique of the 2016 judgment. Additionally, we demonstrate that although an exclusion of the ‘creamy layer’ from the scheme of reservations may be constitutionally valid, it is important for the law to respond to the social stigmatisation and caste-based discrimination that members of these groups face. We extend the Rawlsian frame, using the idea of reflective equilibrium, to suggest how actors behind the veil of ignorance would respond to the question of the ‘creamy layer’ and the question of reservation in promotions. We also make some legal recommendations on these issues that would further the consensus arrived at and cater, responsibly and holistically, to the linkages between caste, power and justice in present-day India.