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[Black Lives Matter] 'What Colour Is God's Skin': P & H HC Remarks Against Use Of Racial Slur Against African Nationals [Read Order]

4 July 2020 5:57 AM GMT
[Black Lives Matter]
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"Derogatory term is not only unprintable but is unspeakable in the present times, in public or in private dealings between African/foreigner and the police personnel and equally in social circles in our Court's territory as elsewhere."

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday closed the proceedings in the NDPS case that came into spotlight for use of racial-slur in the charge sheet.

"May I ask, what colour is God's skin," the single bench of Justice Rajiv Narain Raina said rhetorically to underline the significance of "mutual respect" and "universal common brotherhood".

Last month, the single Judge came down heavily upon the police authorities in the state for using a racial slur while referring to an African national accused in a criminal case under the NDPS Act.

"All Africans are our friends and when they come to India either as visitors or students they are our valuable guests and we should be reminded that India is rich in its traditions of 'mehman nawazi' and 'attithi sanskar/ satkar' and prides itself on this. They should simply be referred to by the country of their origin in case papers," the court had observed.

When the matter was taken up on Wednesday, the court was informed that the impugned word was used by a witness in his witness statement and not the police officer.

However, the bench was of the view that witnesses should be "taken to task" for use of such derogatory words and even the police personnel should be "sensitized" against use of personal comments and insults.

"If a witness or an accused uses that derogatory racial term dealt with, he should be taken to task. It is the attitude of the police which requires reform and if the process of change comes about, ushered by the Circular Memorandum, only then can we truly achieve meaningful and proactive colour blindness against social and biological prejudice and the typification of a class of persons as inferior or superior," the bench observed.

It added,

"It is counselling of the policemen on a regular basis though sensitization workshops, with a drop of liberal education added to the programme that might make that crucial difference in the desired approach in dealing with Africans in India without personal comments and insults. It is one of the duties enshrined in Article 51 A (h) of the Constitution "To develop a scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform." The key word is "humanism" which is the brotherhood of man."

It is in this backdrop that the court made the following rhetorical query,

"the mind has no skin. May I ask, what colour is God's skin, and is there is any God, if anyone knows. Let us stamp out any thought process on unfair social or racial discrimination based on caste, creed, skin, nation and race, on the equator or off it, on a whim of suspicion in an anticipated criminal investigation."

The court was of the opinion that use of racially coloured terms is an issue "much deeper" than it appears to be.

"It shows the stereotypical mindset of the Police authorities which fractures their ability to provide "equality before law and equal protection of law". This unfortunate ideology creates alterity which has strongly infiltrated the law enforcement agencies and which is exactly the vice Article 14 provides protection against," the bench observed.

Before parting, the court appreciated the Government for taking "prompt steps" vis-à-vis the Circular issued by the Director General of Police, Punjab, Chandigarh on this issue.

The Circular states that usage of any racial/racially-coloured term of reference for any foreign national is completely forbidden and such an act will invite stringent action against the concerned personnel.

"When the new dispensation filters down to the mind of each constable on patrolling duty and to every police station, backed by State sanction in the Circular, it will greatly help in inculcating a sense of pious duty in the lower executive authorities and keep them in check by disciplinary action and at the same time foster a sense of security among foreigners travelling to and in India, which is now backed with the State assurance in the present guidelines that they will not be discriminated against or insulted on the basis of skin colour," the court said.

Case Details:

Case Title: Amarjit Singh v. State of Punjab

Case No.: CRM-M No.13502/2020

Quorum: Justice Rajiv Narain Raina

Appearance: Advocate General Atul Nanda with Additional Advocate General Suveer Sheokhand (for State)

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