Taking Offense Raised To Status Of National Indoor Sport: Kunal Kamra To SC

Kunal Kamra said his jokes are not meant as insults but intend to draw attention to issues of public importance.

The public's faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution's own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it, stand-up comic Kunal Kamra told the Supreme Court in response to a contempt plea filed against him.

"Irreverence and hyperbole are essential tools for the comedic enterprise. A comic raises questions on issues of public interest in their own unique way. 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 and which have also been raised in the public domain by more serious and learned commentators," Kamra said.

The Supreme Court on December 18, 2020, decided to initiate proceedings of criminal contempt against Kamra. Contempt proceedings have also been initiated against illustrator Rachita Taneja of the sanitary panel fame.

The Attorney General KK Venugopal on November 12 and December 9 gave consent for the initiation of contempt proceedings against Kamra and Taneja respectively. While giving consent—twice in Kamra's case—the AG observed that a series of tweets Kamra published criticising the judiciary and Justice DY Chandrachud in particular, had crossed a line between humour and contempt.

The top court is slated to hear the matter in this case on Friday.

Also Read: Kunal Kamra, Rachita Taneja To Be Tried For Contempt: SC Issues Notice

BOOM has reproduced excerpts of the reply below:

"I believe there need be no defence for jokes. Jokes are based on a comedian's perspective, which they use to make the audience that shares the same perception laugh. These jokes are not reality and don't claim to be so. Most people do not react to jokes that don't make them laugh; ignore them like our political leaders ignore critics. That is where the life of a 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."

"My tweets were not published with the intention of diminishing the faith of the people in the highest court of our democracy. It is funny though, how little faith petitioner appears to have in the people of this country. The suggestion that my tweets could shake the foundations of the most powerful court in the world is an over-estimation of my abilities."

"Through my work, I attempt to abide by comedy's tenet of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. Take for instance the joke 'Behind every successful Indian businessman there is a nationalised bank'. The humour attempts to blunt the grimness of the situation, and offers a measure of comfort to the afflicted, including families of citizens who find themselves unable to withdraw their hard-earned money from their bank accounts."

"Jokes like these at best make the comfortable squirm in their plush chairs, even as they sit secure in the knowledge that a joke cannot make the heavens fall."

"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: it is irrational and undemocratic."

"Judges of our constitutional courts are amongst the most powerful people in our country. They have extraordinary powers over the fundamental rights and lives of citizens of this country, and their office and tenure are constitutionally protected to shield them from political interference. However, I believe 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 subject of satire or comedy."

"Comedy does not permit an artist the luxury of articulating the basis of jokes through long nuanced essays or measured prose. Brevity may not be a familiar concept for the legal community, but it continues to be the soul of comedy (and twitter—with its 280 character limit). I would be happy to take advise on comedy from the petitioners, but that requires that they have a sense of humour first."

"I believe that there's a growing culture of intolerance in this country, where taking offense is seen as a fundamental right and has been elevated to the status of a much loved national indoor sport."

Also Read: Hindutva Group Targets Munawar Faruqui Again, Forces Comedian To Cancel Mumbai Shows

"We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians like Munawar Farooqui being jailed for jokes that have not even been made, and school students being interrogated for sedition. At such a time, I hope that this court will demonstrate that the freedom of speech and expression is a cardinal constitutional value, and recognise that the possibility of being offended is a necessary incident to the exercise of this right."

"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 postcards every 15th August, just like my Kashmiri friends."

"Lastly, I may disagree with many decisions by many courts in many matters, but I promise this bench 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."

Also Read: Kunal Kamra Tweets Cross Line Between Humour And Contempt: AG

Updated On: 2021-10-28T16:44:59+05:30
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