‘I believe there need be no defence for jokes,” comedian Kunal Kamra in affidavit in Supreme Court

Published : January 30, 2021 12:47 IST

Comedian Kunal Kamra. Photo: By Special Arrangement

“Some people who did not find a few of tweets funny have approached this Court seeking that I be prosecuted and punished for criminal contempt of court. I believe there need be no defence for jokes,” said Kunal Kamra in his affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, where the comedian faces contempt-of-court charges.

In the affidavit, filed through Advocate-On-Record Pritha Srikumar Iyer, the comedian went on to state that jokes were not reality and did not claim to be so. “Most people do not react to jokes that don’t make them laugh; they ignore them like our leaders ignore their critics. That is where the life of a joke must end.” Kamra wrote.

Championing his attempt at abiding by comedy’s tenet of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable through his work, Kamra firmly said that his contentious tweets “were not published with the intention of diminishing the faith of the people in the highest court of our democracy”. In the affidavit, he quipped that petitioner’s faith in the country was little, given how it was conceived that tweets could shake the foundation of the apex court. “The public’s faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it…. I believe that constitutional offices know no protection from jokes,” he said.

Arguing that “irreverence and hyperbole” were essential for comedians to raise questions of public interest uniquely, Kamra said his jokes were to “draw attention to and prompt and engagement with issues that I believe are relevant to our democracy”.

He also cited the constraints of comedy on Twitter, given the character-limit of posts, as compared to longer, nuanced prose. Flagging the increasing intolerance and offence-taking in the country like it is some “much-loved indoor sport”, Kamra said he would nonetheless respect the decision of the Supreme Court bench with “a broad smile” and not vilify it.

In one of the concluding paragraphs of his affidavit, he said: “Should powerful people and institutions continue to show an inability to tolerate rebuke or criticism, we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs.”

Kamra’s counsel Arti Raghavan (via his Advocate-On-Record) told Frontline over WhatsApp, “These proceedings present an opportunity for our judiciary to consider the place of satire and comedy in democracy, in particular content directed at institutions or persons of authority. Criminal contempt laws ought not to be used to stifle engagement with legal issues, and the Indian public is discerning enough to judges/institutions on their own standing.”