Putting an end to a 'colonial legacy' practice of mentioning caste status in criminal proceedings, the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that caste system is profoundly illogical and is also against the basic tenets of the Constitution.
We should, as a public policy, shun the caste system, remarked the division bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Kuldip Singh while directing the Secretaries (Home) to the Governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Union Territory, Chandigarh, to issue instructions to all the Investigating Officers not to state/mention the caste of the accused, victims or witnesses in recovery memos, FIR's, seizure memos, inquest papers and other forms prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Punjab Police Rules.
The court made this observation while considering a criminal appeal in a murder case when it noticed that the police have used the caste of the accused/ witnesses as well as of the victim. The court said:
"This is not permissible. Mentioning of caste/status separately in the criminal proceedings is a colonial legacy and requires to be stopped forthwith. Right to dignity is a fundamental right and a basic human right. Human dignity is one of the basic features of the Constitution. The Constitution of India also guarantees a casteless and classless society. Segmentation of the society into groups cannot be determined by birth. All are born equal."
The court added that it is the bounden duty of the State not only to protect the human dignity but to facilitate it by taking positive steps in that direction. It also referred to German Constitution which states that human dignity under Article 1 is 'inviolable'. The court observed:
"The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution were of utmost belief that the caste system would come to an end with the passage of time. However, unfortunately, the caste system is still prevalent. There of is no scientific, intellectual, social and logical basis for caste system. The caste system is profoundly illogical and is also against the basic tenets of the Constitution."
The Court also directed the Registrar General to issue instructions to all the Judicial Officers to follow the aforesaid directions while dealing with cases.