Comedian Kunal Kamra, facing contempt charges, on Friday said that he would not retract his tweets criticising the Supreme Court or apologise. “No lawyers, no apology, no fine, no waste of space,” Kamra said on Twitter.
His statement came a day after Attorney General KK Venugopal gave his consent to sue Kamra for criminal contempt for his tweets based on the Supreme Court order granting interim bail to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. In his consent letter, the attorney general said that Kamra’s tweets were “highly objectionable” and it “constitutes criminal contempt of court”.
“The Supreme Court of India hasn’t yet declared my tweets anything as of now but if and when they do I hope they can have a small laugh before declaring them Contempt of Court,” Kamra said in a statement. “Also in one of my tweets I had asked for replacement of the photo of Mahatma Gandhi at the Supreme Court of India with that of Harish Salve. I would like to add that Pandit Nehru photo should also be replaced with Mahesh Jethmalani.”
Here is Kamra’s full statement:
Dear Judges, KK Venugopal
The tweets I recently put out have been found in contempt of court. All that I tweeted was from my view of the Supreme Court Of India giving a partial decision in favour of a prime time loudspeaker. I believe I must confess I very much love holding court and enjoying a platform with a captive audience. An audience of Supreme Court judges and the nation’s top most law officer is perhaps as VIP an audience as it gets. But I realise that more than any entertainment venue I would perform in, a time slot before the Supreme Court is a scarce commodity.
My view hasn’t changed because the silence of the Supreme Court of India on matters of other’s personal liberty cannot go uncriticised. I don’t intend to retract my tweets or apologise for them. I believe they speak for themselves. I wish to volunteer having the time that would be allotted to the hearing of my contempt petition (20 hours at the very least, if Prashant Bhushan’s hearing is anything to go by), to other matters and parties who have not been as lucky and privileged as I am to jump the queue. May I suggest the demonetisation petition, the petition challenging the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the matter Of the legality of electoral bonds or countless other matters that are more deserving of time and attention. To slightly misquote Senior Advocate Harish Salve: ‘Will the heavens fall if more salient matters are allotted my time?’
The Supreme Court of India hasn’t yet declared my tweets anything as of now but if and when they do I hope they can have a small laugh before declaring them Contempt of Court. Also in one of my tweets I had asked for replacement of the photo of Mahatma Gandhi at the Supreme Court of India with that of Harish Salve. I would like to add that Pandit Nehru photo should also be replaced with Mahesh Jethmalani.”
Kamra posted four tweets after Goswami was granted interim bail in a 2018 abetment to suicide case on Wednesday, with one of them showing a picture of the Supreme Court building swathed in saffron colour with the BJP flag flying atop it. Venugopal said that the tweet insinuated that the “Supreme Court is not an independent and impartial institution and so too its judges, but on the other hand is a court of the ruling party, the BJP, existing for the BJP’s benefit”.
While granting bail to Goswami, Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud asked High Courts to exercise their jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty. Chandrachud also said that personal liberty is increasingly becoming a casualty in India and said “we will walk on path of destruction” if the court does not intervene in the matter.
Chandrachud’s observations were widely criticised on social media as users, including Kamra, questioned why the same principle of personal liberty was not applied to other journalists and activists who are imprisoned on allegedly unfounded charges.
A Mumbai-based advocate, two other lawyers based in Pune, and a law student are among those who sought Venugopal’s consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Kamra. According to Bar and Bench, the attorney general received a total of 10 letters seeking permission to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Kamra, of which he granted consent to eight.