Kunal Kamra, the stand-up comedian who was issued a show cause notice by the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case, filed a counter-affidavit before the court on Thursday stating that his tweets were not intended to insult the court but were a comedian’s perception which was used to make the audience who share the same perception laugh, reported Live Law.
In his affidavit, Kamra said that he was aware that should “be no defence for jokes” but mentioned that these jokes were not “reality”.
“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 the 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,” he wrote.
“Just as the Supreme Court values the faith the public places in it (and seeks 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” Kamra’s affidavit stated.
On November 12, 2020, Attorney General KK Venugopal had allowed proceedings against Kamra, following a series of tweets in which the comedian criticised the apex court as the “Supreme Joke of this country”. Kamra’s criticism came after Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was granted bail in connection with a abetment to suicide case. Subsequently, a fourth-year law student, Skand Bajpai, moved court seeking to initiate contempt proceedings against Kamra.
The tweets, according to Venugopal, “attacked” the apex court and were “in bad taste” and “clearly cross the line between humor and contempt of the court”.
After Kamra wrote an open letter refusing to apologise for his tweets, on December 18, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a six-week-show cause notice asking explanation on why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be taken against him.
Comparing how “irrational and undemocratic” it was for migrant workers return home by foot during an “ill-planned nationwide lockdown”, Kamra stated in the affidavit that it is the same to “believe any institution of power in a democracy is beyond criticism.”
“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 the subject of satire or comedy,” his statement said.
Talking about “witnessing an assault of the freedom of speech and expression”, Kamra mentioned comedian Munawar Faruqui and his co-accused being arrested for “jokes that they have not even made” and “school students being interrogated for sedition” and pointed out that “there is a growing culture of intolerance in this country, where taking offence is seen as a fundamental-right and has been elevated to the status of a much loved national indoor sport”.
“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 said.
“Irreverence and hyperbole” are “essential” tools for the comedian enterprise, Kamra wrote. He said that even if decisions of other courts don’t “matter” to him, he will respect the decision given by the Supreme Court.
Cartoonist Rachita Taneja issued show cause notice along with Kunal Kamra
The Supreme Court on December 18, 2020 had issued a similar show cause notice to webcomic and cartoonist Rachita Taneja along with Kamra, on contempt of court charges for lampooning the Supreme Court on social media. On December 1, 2020 AG Venugopal granted sanction to initiate contempt proceedings against Taneja, after a complaint was filed against her by another law student. Taneja’s channel Sanitary Panels had tweeted a stick-figure cartoon on November 11 2020, the day Goswami was released on bail.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi who appeared on behalf of Sanitary Panels on Thursday said: “A criticism of the court is not contempt. I don’t know why the Court has issued notice. The foundation of Court is much stronger.”
He also requested the court to consider Taneja’s case separately from that of Kamra’s, reported Live Law.
The bench adjourned the court for three weeks in the matter asking Rohatgi to file a reply if they want to.