New Delhi: Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra defended Friday in the Supreme Court his alleged scandalous tweets against the judiciary. Kunal Kamra said if the court believes he has crossed the line and wants to shut down his internet indefinitely, then he too ‘will write Happy Independence Day post cards every 15th August, just like my Kashmiri friends’. He said ‘irreverence and hyperbole’ are essential tools for the comedic enterprise. Kamra asserted that a comic raises questions on issues of public interest in his own unique way.
“We would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs. It will happen if powerful people and institutions continue to show an inability to tolerate rebuke or criticism,” he said.
Kamra filed his reply affidavit in a plea seeking contempt action against him for the alleged scandalous tweets. “I may disagree with many decisions by many courts in many matters. But I promise this bench that I will respect any decision that comes my way with a broad smile. I will not vilify this bench or the Supreme Court in this matter specifically. Because that would actually be contempt of court,” he said in the affidavit.
“Should powerful people and institutions continue to show an inability to tolerate rebuke or criticism, we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs. If this court believes I have crossed a line and wants to shut down my internet indefinitely, then I too will write Happy Independence Day post cards every 15th August, just like my Kashmiri friends,” he further stated.
The comedian said that he believes that there is growing culture in intolerance in India. “We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression. Comedians like Munawar Farooqi are being jailed for jokes that they have not been made. School students are being interrogated for sedition. At such a time, I hope that this court will demonstrate that the freedom of speech and expression is cardinal constitutional value, and recognise that the possibility of being offended is a necessary incident to the exercise of this right,” Kamra stated.
“The Language and style I resort to are not with the intention to insult. But to draw attention to and prompt an engagement with issues that I believe are relevant to our democracy. These issues have also been raised in the public domain by more serious and learned commentators,” Kamra pointed out.
Kamra further said he believes that constitutional offices – including judicial offices – know no protection from jokes.
“I do not believe that any high authority, including judges, would find themselves unable to discharge their duties only on account of being the subject of satire or comedy,” he said.
Defending his tweets he said, that they were not published with ‘the intention to diminish the faith of the people in the highest court of our democracy’. He said the suggestion that the tweets could shake the foundation of the most powerful court in the world is an over-estimation of his abilities.
“Just as the Supreme Court values the faith the public places in it (and seek to protect it by the exercise of its criminal contempt jurisdiction), it should also trust the public not to form its opinion of the court on the basis of a few jokes on Twitter. The public’s faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it,” he further stated in his affidavit.
Kamra said that jokes are based on a comedian’s perception, which they use to make the audience that shares that perception laugh. “Most people do not react to jokes that don’t make them laugh; they ignore them like our political leaders ignore their critics. That is where the like of joke must end. The truth about the attention economy is that the more attention one gives to criticism or ridicule, the more credible it appears to be,” he said.
The top court issued show-cause notice December 18, last year to Kamra for his alleged scandalous tweets against the apex court. However, it exempted him from personal appearances.