New Delhi: “What color is God’s skin,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked Wednesday, while emphasising on the need to prevent discrimination on the basis of skin tone or race.
Justice Rajiv Narain Raina called for achievement of “meaningful and proactive colour blindness against social and biological prejudice and the typification of a class of persons as inferior or superior”.
The court then observed, “After all, the mind has no skin. May I ask, what colour is God’s skin, and if 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.”
Justice Raina also batted for the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 to be extended to all foreigners in India, in principle, to avoid usage of derogatory words against them.
“The significant words relevant to the present context in the Act are: ‘intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate’,” the court explained.
The order was passed in continuation of the court’s order passed on 12 June, when it reprimanded the Punjab Police for using the offensive term “Negro” to refer to an African national and ordered the police to make sure the “unprintable word” is never used in any document again.
The court was later informed that the word was, in fact, used by a witness during interrogation and not by a police officer. Justice Raina, however, asserted that even witnesses must be cautioned against using such terms.
The judge asserted that it is counselling of policemen through sensitisation workshops, “with a drop of liberal education”, that might bring about a “crucial difference in the desired approach in dealing with Africans in India without personal comments and insults”.
Police to be sensitised, circular issued
The court was informed Wednesday that after its 12 June order, the Director General of Police, Punjab, issued a circular on 16 June, on “using appropriate terms of reference for addressing persons from various nationalities in all official documents”.
This circular directed all officers to stop using racial slurs, saying, “The word ‘Nigro’ or ‘Negro’ or any such words, including ‘Kala’ or any such ‘racist’ words having any racist connotations whatsoever, shall not be used in any of the official records, including FIR, Police Report(s) under Section 173 Cr.P.C. or any Seizure Memo/Panchnama prepared by the Police.”
It also directed all heads of the offices of Punjab Police, as well as all Commissioners of Police and senior Superintendents of Police in Punjab to “sensitize all the SHOs and Investigating Officers to refrain from using word ‘Nigro’ or ‘Negro’ or any such ‘racist’ words in the official records.” This was also asked to be made a part of the police training programme.
Justice Raina appreciated the “prompt steps” taken by the government and said that the assurance “will bring a positive change in the attitude of the police set-up. And of the significance and usage of unprintable and unspeakable pronouns, words and terms which are universally offensive in nature, tone and culture stand rejected in the civilized world.”