Refusing to apologise for his controversial tweets related to India's Supreme Court, stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra— facing criminal contempt of court proceedings for “scandalising the judiciary”— has said that if powerful people and institutions continued to be oversensitive to criticism, “we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists”.
On Friday, Kamra filed an affidavit in response to the legal notice against him for allegedly demeaning the country's top court and Chief Justice of India with his tweets.
In the notices issued to Kamra on 18 December 2020, the court asked him to respond in six weeks and explain why contempt actions should not be taken against him for "scandalising the judiciary".
In a six-page affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court of India hours before the hearing on a contempt case against him on Friday, Kamra said that "jokes are not reality and do not claim to be so".
He clarified: “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.”
Kamra maintained that even judges should not be immune from being laughed at 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.”
Kamra added, referring to a comedian who was jailed on 2 January for allegedly insulting Hindu deities in his show and who has been denied bail: “We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians such as Munawar Faruqui being jailed for jokes that they have not even made, and school students being interrogated for sedition."
Giving a satirical take to the whole incident, Kamra said: “The suggestion that my tweets could shake the foundations of the most powerful court in the world is an over-estimation of my abilities. 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 base its opinion of the Court on a few jokes on Twitter,” he said.
On Friday, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan deferred the hearing by two weeks after petitioners who wish to bring a contempt of court charge against the comedian sought time to file their response to his affidavit.
In one of the tweets that sparked the allegation that he was in contempt of court, Kamra showed the Supreme Court in saffron colour with a BJP flag in place of the Tricolour. He tweeted that honour had left the [Supreme Court] long ago and it was “the most supreme joke of the country”.