A Supreme Court headed by a bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and V Gopala Gawda will examine a plea by a lawyer who seeks a ban on jokes on Sikh community
on the grounds that it violates their right to equality besides being an attack on the dignity of the community.
The petitioner wants that over 5,000 websites which circulate such jokes should be banned.
Harvinder Chowdhury, the petitioner who is also a Sikh advocate, said that the websites which poke fun at the Sikh community were also hurting religious sentiments
. “12 o’clock has a great significance in Sikh history but through these websites… (it) is referred to as a time when the brain and senses of a Sikh stop working,” she added. If banning is not feasible, she suggested that the government should place filters so that ‘Sadarji’ jokes are not disseminated online. Citing an example from her personal life, she argued that because of the jokes depicting Sikhs as ‘persons of low intellect, stupid, fool, naive and not well versed in English’, she had to face humiliation in many places
including courts and foreign countries.
She told the bench that her children didn’t want to use surnames like ‘Kaur’ or ‘Singh’ in order to avoid any further embarrassment.
However, the bench pointed out that noted writer Khushwant Singh, who was a Sikh, himself wrote such jokes. It remarked:
“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.”
“Our Prime Minister says Biharis are intelligent, but when it comes to Sikhs, everyone tries to poke fun at us,” the lawyer argued. The bench reportedly responded, “Don’t worry. When he (Modi) goes to Punjab, he will say Sikhs are also intelligent people.”
The lawyer further asked as to why only one community was targeted.
Harvinder told the court that despite her representation, Centre did not take any action. The bench also asked her whether she wants her case to be placed before a Sikh Supreme Court judge (Justice J.S. Khehar) citing sensitivity. “We are fortunate to have a member from your community as judge. Should we send it to him, if you think only a judge from the same community can understand your case better?” the bench said. But, the lawyer sought a month’s time to return with other materials to support her plea. In past too, the Sikh community had raised their reservations on Sardar-ji jokes. In 2005, some Sikh protesters stormed into Pritish Nandy Communications’ (PNC) office in Mumbai over a Sardar-ji joke in the movie “Shabd”
. Later, the Censor Board directed PNC to delete the objectionable scenes in the film. In 2007, members of Sikh Media and Culture Watch (SMCW) demanded the arrest of Ranjit Parande, a Mumbai-based book seller, for stocking the “Santa and Banta Joke Book”
, a collection of Sardar-ji jokes. The police arrested Parande under section 295 of IPC for ‘hurting religious sentiments’.