'Public's faith in judiciary not founded on criticism'

Comedian Kunal Kamra defends his tweets in SC, says irreverence essential tool

Kamra refused to apologise to the Supreme Court in the contempt case filed against him

Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra. Credit: File Photo

Maintaining that there is no need for defence of jokes, stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra has told the Supreme Court that his tweets were not published with the intention to diminish the faith of people in the highest court of the country. 

"To believe any institution of power in a democracy is beyond criticism is like saying migrants need to find their way back home during ill-planned, nationwide lockdown: it is irrational and undemocratic," he said.

In an affidavit, Kamra said that public's faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution's own actions and not on any criticism or commentary about it.  

Kamra refused to apologise to the court in his response to a contempt notice issued in December for publishing tweets making undignified and derogatory comments against the top court, following bail granted to journalist Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case. 

"The suggestion that my tweets can shake the foundations of the most powerful court of the world is an overestimation of my abilities. Just as the Supreme Court values the faith public places in it, it should also trust the public not to form its opinions of the court on the basis of a few jokes on Twitter," he said.

Kamra added that judges of our constitutional courts are amongst the most powerful people in the country.

However, he maintained constitutional offices, which included judicial offices, know no protection from jokes. 

"I don't believe that any high authority, including judges, find themselves unable to discharge their duties only on account of being the subject of satire or comedy," he said, defending his tweets.

Expressing concern on the "growing culture of intolerance and assault on freedom of speech and expression" with the jailing of artist Munnawar Farooqui, he said, "We would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs if powerful people and institutions continue to show inability to tolerate rebuke or criticism."

He further said, "If this court believes I've 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."

Kamra also said jokes are made on a comedian's perception to make people laugh and comedy does not give an artist the luxury of using long, nuanced essays and measured prose.

A bench presided over by Justice Ashok Bhushan, which took up the matter, granted the petitioners to file a rejoinder to the affidavit.