The Supreme Court on Thursday asked why reservations should be granted to the family members of those from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who are already in high official positions, PTI reported.

“Reservation at the entry level – no problem,” a Constitution bench said. “Suppose, ‘X’ by virtue of the reservation becomes the chief secretary of a state. Now, will it be logical to treat his or her family members as backward to grant reservation in promotion which would provide accelerated seniority?”

“Suppose there was a caste which was backward 50 years ago and now it has sections of creamy layer,” said Justice RF Nariman, according to The Indian Express. “Why can’t court say, ‘don’t treat unequals as equals’, because the whole idea [behind reservation] is to give a leg up to those deserving, not to someone who already has both legs up on the fan.”

The Constitution bench comprised Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman, SK Kaul and Indu Malhotra. The bench was hearing a petition demanding that the “creamy layer” in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes not be granted benefits of reservations.

Based on a 2006 ruling, people under the “creamy layer” – the relatively wealthy people from marginalised communities – do not get reservations if they are from the Other Backward Classes. However, all members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes get the benefits irrespective of their economic status.

Durina a hearing on August 16, the Centre told the bench that the concept of “creamy layer” cannot be applied to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as the stigma of backwardness is still attached to these communities.

On Thursday, several lawyers sought that the 2006 ruling be reconsidered by a larger bench. The 2006 judgement had held that if a state government wishes to introduce quotas for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in job promotions, it needs to collect quantifiable data showing the backwardness of these classes.