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Kunal reply to SC notice says “jokes are not reality, and don’t claim to be so”

Comedian Kunal Kamra on Thursday filed a counter affidavit before the Supreme Court, stating that his tweets were not published with the intention of insulting the Court but to draw its attention to and prompt an engagement with issues that he believes are relevant to the Indian democracy.
 
He said, “These jokes are not reality, and don’t claim to be so.
 
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.” He submitted that he is a comic artist and through his work, he attempts to abide by comedy’s tenet of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable”.
 
The affidavit stated, “Irreverence and hyperbole are essential tools for the comedic enterprise.
 
A comic raises questions on issues of public interest in their own unique way. The language and style I resort to are not with the intention to insult, but to draw attention to and prompt an engagement with issues that I believe are relevant to our democracy and which have also been raised in the public domain by more serious and learned commentators.
 
Comedy does not permit an artist the luxury of articulating the basis of jokes through long, nuanced essays or measured prose. Brevity may not be a familiar concept for the legal community, but it continues to be the soul of comedy.”
 
He has therefore urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the proceedings instituted against him and demonstrate that the freedom of speech and expression is a cardinal constitutional value, and the possibility of being offended is a necessary incident to the exercise of this right.
 
Kamra also said “My tweets were not published with the intention of diminishing the faith of the people in the highest court of our democracy. 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. Just as the Supreme Court values the faith the public places in it and seeks to protect it by the exercise of its criminal contempt jurisdiction in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it.”
 
Kamra stated no institution of power, not even Courts are beyond criticism in a democracy. “I believe that constitutional offices, including judicial offices know no protection from jokes.
 
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 of satire or comedy,” he added.
 
Kamra concluded with the following words: “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”
The SC bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah had issued notice to Kamra on December 18, on the petitions seeking criminal contempt action against him for his tweets against the Judiciary.
 
Kamra had posted a picture of the Supreme Court dressed in saffron colour with the flag of the ruling party, the BJP. He also published several remarks against the Supreme Court such as ‘honour has left the building (Supreme Court) long back’ and ‘Supreme Court of the country is the most Supreme joke of the country’.
 
The Attorney General of India had found these tweets to be ‘highly objectionable’ and he stated that it is time that people understand that attacking the Supreme Court of India unjustifiably and brazenly will attract punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972.
 
For this he replied in his affidavit , “These jokes are not reality, and don’t claim to be so. 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.”
 
He submitted that he is a comic artist and through his work, he attempts to abide by comedy’s tenet of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable”.
 
He said in his affidavit Comedy does not permit an artist the luxury of articulating the basis of jokes through long, nuanced essays or measured prose. Brevity may not be a familiar concept for the legal community, but it continues to be the soul of comedy.”
Here is the text of Kamra’s response to the contempt notice:
Some people who did not find a few of my 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. Jokes are based on a comedian’s perspective, which they use to make the audience that shares the perception laugh. These jokes are not reality and don’t claim to be so.
 
Most people do not react to jokes that don’t make them laugh; ignore them like our political leaders ignore 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 criticism or ridicule, the more credible it appears to be.
 
Through my work, I attempt to abide by comedy’s tenet of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.
 
Take for instance the joke ‘Behind every successful Indian businessman there is a nationalised bank’.
 
The humour attempts to blunt the grimness of the situation, and offers a measure of comfort to the afflicted, including families of citizens who find themselves unable to withdraw their hard-earned money from their bank accounts.
 
Jokes like these at best make the comfortable squirm in their plush chairs, even as they sit secure in the knowledge that a joke cannot make the heavens fall. My tweets were not published with the intention of diminishing the faith of the people in the highest court of our democracy.
 
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.
 
Just as the Supreme Court values the faith public places in it (and seeks to protect it by the exercise of its criminal contempt jurisdiction), it should also trust the public not to form its opinions of the Court on the basis of a few jokes on Twitter.
 
The public’s faith in judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions and not on any criticism or commentary about it.
 
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.
 
Judges of our constitutional courts are amongst the most powerful people in our country. They have extraordinary powers over the fundamental rights and lives of citizens of this country, and their office and tenure are constitutionally protected to shield them from political interference.
 
However, I believe that constitutional offices including judicial offices know no protection from jokes.
 
I do not believe that any high authority, including judges, would find themselves unable to discharge their duties only on account of being subject of satire or comedy.
A comic raises questions on issues of public interest in their own unique way.
 
The language and style I resort to are not with the intention to insult, but to draw attention to and prompt an engagement with issues that I believe are relevant to our democracy and which have also been raised in the public domain by more serious and learned commentators.
 
Comedy does not permit an artist the luxury of articulating the basis of jokes through long nuanced essays or measured prose.
 
Brevity may not be a familiar concept for the legal community, but it continues to be the soul of comedy (and Twitter – with its 280 character limit). I would be happy to take advise on comedy from the Petitioners, but that requires that they have a sense of humour first.
 
I believe that there’s a growing culture of intolerance in this country, where taking offense is seen as a fundamental right and has been elevated to the status of a much loved national indoor sport.
 
We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians like Munawar Farooqui being jailed for jokes that have not even been made, and school students being interrogated for sedition.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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 postcards every 15th August, just like my Kashmiri friends.
Lastly, I may disagree with many decisions by many courts in many matters, but I promise this Bench I will respect any decision that comes my way with a broad smile.
 
I will not vilify this Bench or the Supreme Court in this matter specifically because that would actually be contempt of court.
 
Splco Reporter
Special Correspondent Group of right thinking writers who eulogise self expression in quest of truth in news making jointly contribute under the platform of splco.me a novel social media channel.

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