New Delhi: The Supreme Court today upheld
the constitutional validity of reservation for backward
classes in rural and urban local bodies, including posts of
chairpersons, and rejected the plea that the creamy layer
should be excluded.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K
G Balakrishnan, however, said the reservation benefits should
not exceed the 50 per cent upper ceiling limit except in
"While access to higher education and public employment
increases the likelihood of socio-economic upliftment of the
individual beneficiaries, participation in local-self
government is intended as a more immediate measure of
empowerment for the community that the elected representative
"The objectives of democratic decentralisation are not
only to bring governance closer to the people but also to make
it more participatory, inclusive and accountable to the weaker
sections of society", the bench also comprising Justices
R V Raveendran, D K Jain, P Sathasivam and J M Panchal said
in a judgement.
The apex court passed the judgement on a bunch of
petitions filed by various persons challenging the
constitutional validity of Articls 243-D(6) and Article 243-T
(6) which provided for reservation benefits to members of
Backward Classes in local bodies and chairperson posts.
"Article 243-D(6) and Article 243-T(6) are
constitutionally valid since they are in the nature of
provisions which merely enable state legislatures to reserve
seats and chairperson posts in favour of backward classes,"
the apex court said.
Rejecting the plea for excluding the creamy layer, it
said reservation in local self-government are intended to
directly benefit the community as a whole rather than just the
"It is for this very reason that there cannot be an
exclusion of the creamy layer in the context of political
"There are bound to be disparities in the socio-economic
status of persons within the groups that are the intended
beneficiaries of reservation policies. While the exclusion of
the creamy layer may be feasible as well as desirable in the
context of reservation for education and employment, the same
principle cannot be extended to the context of local
self-government," the bench said.
According to the apex court, at the panchayats` level,
the empowerment of the elected individual is only a means for
pursuing the larger end of advancing the interests of weaker
"Hence, it would be counter-intuitive to exclude the
relatively better-off persons among the intended beneficiaries
from reservation benefits that are designed to ensure
diversity in the composition of local bodies," the bench said.