Suriya NEET Letter Row: Ex-Judges Say There’s No Contempt of Court

Earlier, Justice SM Subramaniam of Madras High Court had sought to initiate contempt proceedings against Suriya.

3 min read
Earlier, Justice SM Subramaniam of Madras High Court had sought to initiate contempt proceedings against Suriya.

Six retired judges have written to Madras High Court Chief Justice AP Sahi, urging the court not to take up contempt proceedings against actor Suriya over his letter on student suicides and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

The actor, moved by the recent suicides of students purportedly over NEET, had put out an emotional appeal and called for people to protest against the exams.

On Monday, Justice SM Subramaniam of the Madras High Court wrote to the chief justice, seeking to initiate contempt proceedings against Suriya.

The six former judges of the Madras High Court – Justice K Chandru, Justice KN Basha, Justice Sudanthiram, Justice D Hariparanthaman, Justice K Kannan and Justice GM Akbar Ali – said that the actor’s statement did not warrant any action.

Justice SM Subramaniam had taken issue with Suriya’s letter which said, “Courts, which are delivering justice through video-conferencing due to life-threatening coronavirus fears, are ordering students to fearlessly go and write the exams.”

The serving judge felt that the statement amounted to contempt of court as it ‘undermined’ and ‘criticised’ judges and the judicial system, while also posing a ‘threat’ to ‘public confidence in the judiciary’.

‘Artistic Person’s Overreaction Shouldn’t be Taken Out of Context’

Citing Justice SM Subramaniam’s letter, the former judges wrote, “We are afraid that such a construction made on the statement of Suriya will be slightly off the mark and it does not require any action as requested by the learned Judge. Where four students have killed themselves unable to meet the NEET requirement and in a surcharged atmosphere, an artistic person’s overreaction should not be taken seriously and out of context.”

“If the letter is read in its totality and considering the good social work done by him through his trust, which had helped hundreds of poor students to complete their higher education and get placements, we should show generosity and magnanimity in leaving the matter without any cognisance,” stated the letter, referring to Suriya’s Agaram Foundation.

“Being former judges and concerned about the prestige and honour of this court, we earnestly make this appeal not to take cognisance of the complaint and leave the matter as it is. It is our duty to make this appeal to your goodselves so that the court is rid of any unnecessary controversies,” the former judges wrote.

What Did the Actor Say?

Actor Suriya on Sunday slammed the judiciary, the government and the media over the student suicides in Tamil Nadu which have, once again, highlighted the state’s battle against the controversial medical exam. The statement issued by the actor on Sunday evoked strong responses from his fans and the public.

The Tamil Nadu Advocates' Association called the actor's statement contempt of court and alleged that he had 'claimed media publicity' and 'crossed the borders'.

"This particular statement by interfering with the process and functioning of judicial discretion is a criminal contempt and the judicial functioning is beyond the scope of anybody to comment and the courts have judicially pronounced orders and the same is agreed (to) by all persons concerned and the stakeholders involved [sic]," read the statement of the association, led by senior counsel S Prabakaran.

(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

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