The Supreme Court Friday agreed to examine a PIL which seeks a ban on jokes on Sikhs and Sardars. Claiming that such jokes are a violation of their right to equality with fellow citizens and an attack on the dignity of the community, the petitioner said the court should order the government to ensure such jokes are taken off websites and filters are put in place to stop more such jokes on the internet.
Filed by Sikh lawyer Harvinder Chowdhury, the petition also says offenders should be told to deposit a compensation in the National Legal Aid if Sardar jokes should be banned online Fund. It adds that the Ministries of Telecom and Information and Broadcasting should either ban the websites or direct them to remove such jokes since “they tend to portray the Sardar community as people of low intellect”.
Chowdhury complained that she had to suffer “humiliation” because of such jokes even when she was abroad, and that her children insist on not having Singh or Kaur as surnames to avoid embarrassment.
But the bench of Justice T S Thakur and Justice Gopala Gowda told her that there are many Sikhs who do not mind such jokes. “Many people we know take these jokes sportingly. It may not be an insult but only some casual comic statements for amusement. You want all such jokes to stop but Sikhs may themselves oppose this,” observed the bench.
Chouwdhury also cited a statement by the Prime Minister at a rally in Bihar. “Our Prime Minister says Biharis are intelligent people but when it comes to us, everyone tries to poke fun at us,” said Chowdhury.
The bench replied: “Don’t worry. When he (Modi) goes to Punjab, he will say Sikhs are also intelligent people.”
When Chowdhury said the issue involved sensitivity of a particular community, the bench gave her the option of placing her petition before a Sikh judge (Justice J S Khehar) of the Supreme Court.
“Should we send it to a judge who is from the same community? If you think only a judge from the same community can understand your case better, we may send it to the other judge,” said the court. It also pointed out that Khushwant Singh wrote many such jokes.
Chowdhury, however, said she would argue before the current bench and asked for some time to come back with more case laws and other material to support her plea.
As it adjourned the case for hearing after a month, the bench also sought views of senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was in the courtroom for a different matter. Singhvi replied that such jokes may not essentially aim at denigrating people and gave the example of Polish jokes, based on certain stereotypes about Polish people.