Punjab & Haryana High Court
Punjab & Haryana High Court
Litigation News

The mind has no skin, what colour is God’s skin? P&H HC asks to emphasise that persons should not be discriminated on skin tone, race

Last month, the Court had castigated the use of a derogatory term to refer to an African National in an NDPS case and directed the police"never to use the unprintable word in any police document."

Meera Emmanuel

"May I ask, what colour is God’s skin, and is there is any God, if anyone knows?"

Justice Rajiv Narain Raina recorded the rhetorical query in an order passed last Wednesday to emphasise that people should not be discriminated on the basis of skin tone or race.

The judge was prompted to take up the issue last month after an African national involved in an NDPS case was referred to by a derogatory term in police records (Amarjit Singh v. State of Punjab).

The Court was later informed that the term was used by a witness and not the police, and that it was recorded in a witness statement. The Judge, however, emphasised that even witnesses must be cautioned against using such terms.

"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... 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 Court noted.

Justice Raina added,

"After all, 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."
Punjab and Haryana High Court

Following the Court's directions issued last month, the Director General of Police, Punjab issued a circular on June 16 on the issue of “using appropriate terms of reference for addressing persons from various nationalities in all official documents."

This circular barred the usage of the word ‘Nigro’ or ‘Negro’ or any such words, including ‘kala’ and other ‘racist’ words having any racist connotations whatsoever in any official case record. The usage of such racist words were also completely prohibited in referring to any person.

Apart from directions to sensitise the police officers on this mandate, the circular also warned that any violations would be viewed seriously and as misconduct attracting disciplinary action.

The Court, in turn, appreciated the prompt steps taken by the Government to address the concern. The judge added,

"I re-emphasize that the 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."

He went on to explain that the use of such 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 Court said.

With these observations, the Court proceeded to dispose of the matter. Whereas the main NDPS matter had already been dealt with, the case had been kept pending to follow up on the action taken against the use of racial slurs after the issue was noticed in the last hearing.

In view of the steps taken to address the problem since, the Court parted with the matter, observing,

"With this, the chapter is presently closed with hope that amends will continue to be made and Africans are dealt with in a fair and just manner without rebukes and insults."
Punjab and Haryana High Court

Read the Order:

Amarjit Singh v. State of Punjab - July 1 order.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news