Comedian Kunal Kamra potentially faces the ire of the nation’s highest court, with Attorney General K.K. Venugopal on Thursday granting consent for initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the stand-up comic artist.
Following the release of Republic Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami from jail on interim bail after the Supreme Court noted the need to “uphold personal liberty”, Kamra had taken to Twitter to express his disappointment.
The Supreme Court of this country is the the most Supreme joke of this country…— Kunal Kamra (@kunalkamra88) November 11, 2020
Kamra had sparred with Goswami before, after encountering him in a flight and filming him, with the resultant video of him heckling Goswami going viral.
Don’t even call it contempt of court call it contempt of future Rajya Sabha Seat 😂😂😂— Kunal Kamra (@kunalkamra88) November 12, 2020
Noting the complaint of three lawyers who allege Kamra attempted to lower the authority of the Supreme Court of India, the AG said the tweets “clearly cross the line between humour and contempt of the court”. In his letter to one of the applicants, he wrote, “I have gone through each one of the tweets which you have annexed for consent to proceed by way of criminal contempt against Sh. Kunal Kamra. The tweets which I am extracting below are not only in bad taste but clear cross the line between humour and contempt of the Court.”
He cited the following examples:
“Honour has left the building (Supreme Court) long back” and “The Supreme Court of this Country is the most Supreme joke of this country”.
He then proceeded to explain in detail the implications of a picture shared by Kamra, writing, “Apart from this is a picture of the Supreme Court building dressed in saffron colours with a flag of the ruling political part, namely the BJP having replaced the Tricolour. This is a gross insinuation against the entirety of the Surpeme Court of India that the Supreme Court of India is not an independent and impartial institution and so too its judges, but on the other hand if is a Court of the ruling party, the BJP, existing for the BJP’s benefit. “
“All this in my opinion constitutes criminal contempt of Court,” he wrote.
Noting that the other tweets are also “highly objectionable”, he says it would be for the Court to decide whether these too constitute criminal contempt of the SC.
In a commentary on the limits of freedom of speech he wrote, “I find that today people believe that they can boldly and brazenly condemn the Supreme Court of India and its judges by exercising what they believe is their freedom of speech. But under the Constitution, the freedom of speech is subject to the law of contempt and i believe 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.”
As per the Contempt of Courts Act, the punishment for a conviction can include “simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both”.
In August, the apex court found activist and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court, fining him a token amount of Re 1. Bhushan, too, had got in trouble over a tweet, where he noted the photo of Chief Justice of India sitting astride a Harley Davidson owned by a BJP leader’s son.