ON Thursday, the Chief Justice of India (‘CJI’) Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud recused himself from hearing a batch of contempt petitions against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for his tweets against the Supreme Court.
CJI Dr. Chandrachud said since Kamra also made remarks against an order passed by him, the matter should be heard by a different bench. This came even after the parties appearing in the matter submitted they had no objections to the CJI hearing the matter.
The matter has come up for hearing after a considerable time of it being filed before a division bench comprising CJI Dr. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha.
In November 2020, Kamra filed an affidavit in the court in response to the contempt notice, refusing to apologise for his tweets. He told the court that to suggest that his tweets/jokes criticising the Supreme Court could shake the foundations of the most powerful court in the world, was an overestimation of his abilities.
Kamra had tweeted that the Supreme Court was the “most supreme joke” in the country, after which he posted a photoshopped photo of the Supreme Court bathed in saffron colours with a flag of the BJP hoisted on it. After a few days, he posted another tweet showing his middle finger to the then CJI S.A. Bobde. He had also criticised the Supreme Court judgement authored by then Justice Dr. Chandrachud granting bail to the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, news anchor and journalist Arnab Goswami.
The then Attorney General for India had consented to contempt proceedings against Kamra.
In his affidavit, Kamra 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”.
Referring to the arrest of comedian Munawar Farooqui, Kamra had said “We are witnessing an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, with comedians like Munawar Faruqui being in jail for jokes that they have not even made, and school students being interrogated for sedition …
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”, Kamra had told the Supreme Court.
Cartoonist Rachita Taneja had also got a contempt notice for her tweet on the Supreme Court granting bail to Arnab Goswami.