There is a growing culture of intolerance in this country, said comedian Kunal Kamra in his response to the Supreme Court’s contempt notice for his tweets criticising the court, adding that there’s no defence needed for jokes as jokes are not reality and don’t claim to be so.
Kamra, who’s facing contempt charges for criticising the top court over the granting of bail to Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case, also mentioned about comedian Munawar Faruqui, who was arrested for allegedly insulting Hindu deities.
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“I believe there need be no defence for jokes. Jokes are based on a comedian’s perception, which they use to make the audience that shares that perception laugh. These jokes are not reality and don’t claim to be so,” said Kamra, who did not offer an apology.
“Most people do not react to jokes that don’t make them laugh; they ignore them like our political leaders ignore their critics. That is where the life of a joke must end. The truth about the attention economy is that the more attention one gives to ridicule or criticism, the more credible it appears to be,” his response stated.
Kamra said that his tweets were not intended at diminishing the faith of the people in the top court. “It is funny though, how little faith the Petitioner appears to have in the people of this country. The suggestion that my tweets could shake the foundations of the most powerful court in the world is an over-estimation of my abilities,” he added.
“To believe any institution of power in a democracy is beyond criticism is like saying migrants need to find their way back home during an ill-planned, nationwide lockdown; it is irrational and undemocratic,” said the 32-year-old comedian. “I do not believe that any high authority, including judges, would find themselves unable to discharge their duties only on account of being the subject in satire or comedy.”
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He further said he believes that there’s a “growing culture of intolerance in this country.” “We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians like Munawar Farooqi being jailed for jokes that they have not even made, and school students interrogated for sedition,” said Kamra.
“At such a time, I hope that this court will demonstrate that the freedom of speech and expression is a cardinal constitutional value, and recognise that the possibility of being offended is a necessary incident to the exercise of this right,” he added.
“Should powerful people and institutions continue to show an ability to tolerate rebuke or criticism, we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs. If this Court believes I have crossed a line and wants to shut down my internet indefinitely, then I too will write Happy Independence Day post cards every 15th August, just like my Kashmiri friends,” Kamra said.
Related news | SC issues contempt notice to Kunal Kamra, artist Rachita Taneja
He concluded saying that though he may disagree with many decisions by many courts, he promises to respect the decision taken by the top court bench with a smile. “I will not vilify this Bench of the Supreme Court in this matter specifically because that would actually be contempt of court,” he said.
Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja had received the contempt notices last month. They were asked to respond in six weeks and explain why contempt actions should not be taken against them. They, however, were exempted from appearing in person.