Frontline On Air | Time for a modern law protecting the right to offend through comedy

LISTEN: There indeed seems to be a rich tradition in Indian history that we can draw from to develop a contemporary jurisprudence of comic expression that is simultaneously political, aesthetic, and ethical.

Stand-up comics in India can draw on the country’s rich tradition of using humour to challenge authority.

Published : Jan 03, 2024 13:23 IST - 1 MIN READ

Have you heard the one in which a comic, a judge, and a heckler walk into a bar and have a laugh together? Neither have I, and it seems improbable that we will encounter such a situation, other than in a joke. Given the rather tenuous relationship between comedy, law, and a heightened propensity for people to take offence at jokes, we are unlikely to witness a harmonious coming together of the three in the real world.

While humour and satire have always been essential to political speech, in the Indian context, comic speech has played a relatively minor part in the development of free speech jurisprudence. Free speech cases in India tend to emerge from seditious speech or expressions that offend religious sentiment, and often in such cases, there is a gravitas associated with these forms of expression.

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