Whether you crack a joke, tweet something against the government, or even share a funny meme on the internet, it seems like anything you say or express might land you in legal trouble in today’s India.
Despite India being a democracy and the constitution granting you the right to freedom of speech and expression, several critiques of the present government have found themselves in trouble for speaking their mind out. This also included a few comedians who have come under fire from the State.
From Kunal Kamra (who was slapped with a contempt of court) to Agrima Joshua (who had an FIR filed in her name) in 2020, and the recent addition being Munawar Faruqui (who was arrested and is still in custody) — we bring to you the three cases of Indian comedians who faced the State wrath for cracking jokes.
1. Munawar Faruqui
The 28-year-old Gujarat based Muslim, Indian comedian was arrested for allegedly cracking a joke on Hindu deities and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah during a show in Indore on January 2, 2021. The complaint against him was filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, who is the son of a BJP legislator Malini Laxman Singh Gaur. According to the complaint, the stand-up comedian made indecent remarks on the Hindu gods for a few laughs in his segment.
Soon after, the police had arrested him along with 4 four other comedians. However, police later said that they didn’t find a video with Faruqui making such comments.
2. Kunal Kamra
A case was filed against the 32-year-old stand-up comedian who is known for his open and straight forward jokes on Indian politics and democracy.
The case was filed for a tweet he posted on November 11, 2020, where Kamra expressed his view on the Supreme Court of India.
“The Supreme Court of this country is the most Supreme joke of this country,” he said on Twitter.
After this tweet, a law student, Skand Bajpai wrote a letter to attorney general KK Venugopal seeking to proceed with the court of contempt against him.
“In reply to my letter dated 11.11.2020, the Ld. Attorney General for India has given kind consent to initiate criminal contempt of court against Kunal Kamra,” he wrote on Twitter.
Kamra then wrote a letter to KK Venugopal, in which he stated, “My view hasn’t changed because the silence of the Supreme Court of India on matters of other’s personal liberty cannot go uncriticized. I don’t intend to retract my tweets or apologise for them.”
On December 18, the Supreme Court issued a notice initiating the court of contempt against Kamra.
3. Agrima Joshua
This young female Indian comedian was terribly harassed online after a clip from her 2019 comedy set was resurfaced in 2020 where she apparently insulted Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in one of her jokes. Even the Maharashtra home minister, Anil Deshmukh said that legal action would be taken against her for the remarks she made on Shivaji Maharaj.
Matters became worse and an FIR was filed against her under the IT Act and other relevant acts. Joshua came out on social media and immediately apologized for hurting the sentiments of the people.
Things got scarier for her after a 26-year-old, Youtuber, Shubham Mishra gave rape threats to her in a video that he posted on Instagram. The National Commission for Women (NCW) came across this and filed an FIR against him and he was later arrested.
In a similar case in 2017, an FIR was registered against All India Bakchod (AIB) because its co-founder, Tanmay Bhatt had posted a meme on PM Narendra Modi where a Snapchat dog filter was superimposed on PM’s selfie.
The police charged AIB with defamation and provisions of IT Act with a punishment of three years and a penalty of Rs 5 lakh. Later the AIB’s lawyer said that the meme can hardly be called obscene under section 67 of the Information Technology Act and the charges were dropped.