The Punjab and Haryana High Court has chastised the state police for using a derogatory term to describe black people, while referring to an African national in a drugs case, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. The court directed the police to not use the “unprintable word” in any of its documents, adding that use of such terms is offensive and socially unacceptable.

The derogatory term was used by the police in the challan papers presented before the trial court in Jalandhar. A chargesheet in the case was filed under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in a case registered in December 2019.

In an order passed on Friday, the court requested the Punjab director general of police to not normalise racism. “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,” Justice Rajiv Narain Raina said. “This has nothing to do with the investigation or crime.”

Raina said the police appeared to have assumed that “every black” person is a drug peddler and should be treated likewise. “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’ [hospitality] and ‘atithi sanskar/satkar’ and prides itself on this,” the order added. “They should simply be referred to by the country of their origin in case papers.”

The judge said that the investigating officers and police officials registering the first information report need to be immediately sensitised. They must ensure that no person is looked down upon on the basis of their skin colour, Raina said.

“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,” the court added. “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 fellow men.”

The court also asked the state government’s proposed action against police personnel who indulge in “character assassination” based on physical features of the person. “This is socially unacceptable but what can one expect from an uneducated and insensitive constabulary, as in this case,” the order read. “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.”

The matter will be heard next on June 18.