A highly offensive word, no one has any business to use it: P&H HC lambasts Police for using derogatory term to refer to African National
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A highly offensive word, no one has any business to use it: P&H HC lambasts Police for using derogatory term to refer to African National

"We are, professedly, a tolerant sub-continent of 'browns' in all its shades, but more often than not, display a perverted and primitive mindset looking down on others without looking within ourselves", the Court said.

Meera Emmanuel

The Punab and Haryana High Court on Friday was unequivocal in its condemnation for the use of a derogatory term by the Punjab Police to refer to an African National in an NDPS case (Amarjit Singh v. State of Punjab).

Justice Rajiv Narain Raina observed,

"I am appalled to find the term 'Nigro' used while referring to an African national in the challan papers presented under Section 173 Cr.P.C before the trial court in an NDPS case. This is a highly offensive word across the globe and no one has any business to use it, and much less the police. Hence, it is directed never to use the unprintable word in any police document including in challans or anywhere else on case papers including in investigation reports."
"This brings shame to India and hatred for the country. The police appears to have assumed that every black is a drug peddler and should be treated as such. This is terrible thinking."
the Court recorded further.

The judge also proceeded to make certain critical observations over certain racist double standards prevalent in India. In this regard, the order states,

"We are, professedly, a tolerant sub-continent of 'browns' in all its shades, but more often than not, display a perverted and primitive mind-set looking down on others without looking within ourselves. For many centuries we have been slaves. Freedom does not lend its wings to our countrymen to fly anywhere they wish and in any manner they like and abuse foreigners on the street calling them 'kalla'. To the contrary, freedom teaches love for human dignity and respect for fellowman. "

With a view to address the issue, at least as far as the functioning of the police is concerned, the Court proceeded to issue the following directions:

  • The Director-General of Police, Punjab is requested to consider the entire issue and notify instructions to the police force calling upon them never to use the offensive term 'nigro' or 'negro' while referring to “black” persons in case papers.

  • The pernicious practice should be stopped forthwith and the police commanded on pain of disciplinary action never to address anyone by that description, forget about writing it down in official papers of permanent State record.

  • Strict action is to be taken against the policemen who indulge in this character assassination based on physical features. Investigation of crime apart, an investigation should be non-aggressive in the search for truth and commission of cognizable offences.

"They deserve the dignity and respect in a foreign land as visitors or students in India from Africa temporarily living in our country, which prides itself of many peoples of all colours of the skin ranging from white to black and aboriginal. This has nothing to do with investigation or crime."
the Court said.

Further, the judge also emphasised,

"... no person should be looked down upon on the basis of the colour of his/her skin. 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 has directed that it be informed of the action proposed to be taken on the issue by the next hearing date.

Read the order:

Amarjit Singh v. State of Punjab - June 12 order.pdf
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