Taking offence has been elevated to status of a much-loved indoor sport, Kunal Kamra tells Supreme Court

Kunal Kamra. File   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, facing contempt for scandalising the Supreme Court with his tweets, said the phenomenon of “taking offence” to comedy or satire has been elevated to the status of a much-loved indoor sport in a growing culture of intolerance.

“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 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... My tweets were not published with the intention of diminishing the faith of the people in the highest court,” Mr. Kamra said in a six-page reply to the suo motu contempt against him.

Taking offence was now seen as a “fundamental right”, Mr. Kamra said.

“Comedians like Munawar Faruqui are jailed for jokes they did not make. School students are interrogated for sedition,” Mr. Kamra told the Supreme Court.

A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan will hear the case on Friday.

‘Cardinal constitutional value’

“Hope the court will demonstrate that free speech is a cardinal constitutional value. If the powerful are unable to tolerate rebuke and criticism, we will be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs,” Mr. Kamra said.

Jokes needed no defence, he wrote.

Jokes were based on a comedian’s perception. His job was to share his perception with his audience and make them laugh.

“Most people do not react to jokes that do not make them laugh. They ignore them like our political leaders ignore their critics. That is where the life of a joke must end,” he told the Supreme Court.

The more attention you paid to a joke, the more credible it became.

“The public faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it,” Mr. Kamra said.

Also read: Kunal Kamra refuses to apologise, retract his tweets

He said constitutional offices — including judicial offices — needed no protection from jokes. The comedian said he did not buy the argument that judges would be unable to perform their functions just because they were the subject of satire or comedy.

Irreverence and hyperbole were essential tools for the comedic enterprise. A comic raised public issues in his own unique way. Language and style were not meant to insult but to draw attention. “Brevity is the soul of comedy, though it may not be a familiar concept for the legal community,” he quipped.

“Through my work, I attempt to abide by comedy’s tenet of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. Humour attempts to blunt the grimness of the situation,” the comedian’s affidavit said.

The case hearing has been adjourned by two weeks.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 1:48:08 PM |

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