Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 29
Comedian Kunal Kamra—who is facing criminal contempt of court proceedings for “scandalising the judiciary”—has defended his controversial tweets, saying if powerful people and institutions continued to show the inability to face rebukes and criticism, “we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists.”
In an affidavit filed in response to criminal contempt of court notice issued by the top court, Kamra said, “I believe there is a growing culture of intolerance in the country where taking offence is seen as a fundamental right and is elevated to the status of much loved national indoor sports.”
Raising the issue of arrest of another comedian Munawar Farooqi, in Madhya Pradesh, he expressed hope that the court will protect the right to free speech.
On Friday, a Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan deferred the hearing by two weeks after petitioners seeking contempt action against the comedian sought time to file their response to his affidavit.
Another stand-up comedian, Rachita Taneja, facing contempt over her social media posts, urged the top court to separate her case from that of Kamra.
The Bench gave her three weeks to file her response to the contempt notice after senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi sought time on her behalf.
“Foundation of the Supreme Court is surely based on much stronger foundation… criticism of the court can never be contempt,” Rohatgi submitted.
Maintaining that courts were not beyond criticism in a democracy, Kamra said, “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.”
He said judges were the most powerful but enjoyed 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 joke,” Kamra stated in his affidavit.
He said irreverence and hyperbole were essential tools for the comedic enterprise.
The Supreme Court had on December 18 issued notices to Kamra and Taneja on separate petitions seeking initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against them for scandalising the judiciary. It had asked them to respond to the petitions in six weeks and explain why criminal contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against them.
However, it had said the contemnors needn’t appear before it in person.
The petitions against Kamra and Taneja were filed after Attorney General KK Venugopal gave his consent to initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against both the comic artists.
They had allegedly insinuated the Supreme Court after it gave bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case.
Terming Kamra’s tweets as “highly objectionable”, Venugopal had said in his opinion it “constitutes criminal contempt of court.”
The tweets were not only in bad taste but crossed the line between humour and contempt of court, the Attorney General had noted.
In one of his tweets, Kamra showed the Supreme Court in saffron colour with a BJP flag in place of the Tricolour. He tweeted that honour had left the building (Supreme Court) long back and it was “the most supreme joke of the country”.
He also made nasty comments about a sitting Supreme Court judge.
Taneja had circulated a caricature that allegedly depicted a quid pro quo relationship between the judiciary and the government concerning the Ayodhya verdict. She had also allegedly insinuated the top court for giving bail to TV journalist Arnab Goswami.
The consent of either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General is necessary, under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, for initiating contempt proceedings against a person in the Supreme Court.