“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,” stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra has told the Supreme Court in his affidavit filed hours before the hearing on a contempt case against him on Friday.
He added if the court believes he has crossed a line and wants to shut down his Internet indefinitely, then he too will “write Happy Independence Day postcards every August 15 just like his Kashmiri friends”.
Kamra was issued a notice of contempt on December 18 for allegedly denigrating the judiciary and judges through his social media posts after Attorney General KK Venugopal gave his consent for initiation of the contempt proceedings.
Kamra has filed his affidavit in response to the notice maintaining that even judges know no protection from jokes and that the public faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions and not on any criticism or commentary about it.
“We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians like Munawar Faruqui being jailed for jokes that they have not even made, and school students being interrogated for sedition.”
The affidavit is replete with satire. “To believe any institution of power in a democracy is beyond criticism is like saying migrants need to find their way back home during an ill-planned, nationwide lockdown…the suggestion that my tweets could shake the foundation of the most powerful court in the world is an over-estimation of my abilities,” it said.
“These jokes are not reality, and do not claim to be so. 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 life of a joke must end…I do not believe that any high authority, including judges, would find themselves unable to discharge their duties only on account of being the subjects of satire or comedy.”
A bench comprising of justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah will take up the case around 12pm on Friday.
The bench will also hear a separate show-cause notice issued to another comedian, Rachita Taneja, over similar allegations of deriding the judiciary and judges.