Suriya Sivakumar
Suriya Sivakumar

6 former Judges urge Madras HC Chief Justice not to initiate contempt against Suriya over NEET remarks; TNAA condemns Suriya's statement

On Sunday, Justice Subramaniam wrote to Chief Justice AP Sahi stating that Suriya's remarks criticising the Court nod for students to write the NEET amid the COVID-19 pandemic amounted to contempt of court.

Meera Emmanuel

Six former Judges of the Madras High Court have addressed a letter to the High Court's Chief Justice urging him to refrain from acting on Justice SM Subramaniam's letter which called for the initiation of criminal contempt against actor Suryia over his remarks on the conduct of the NEET amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"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 good selves so that the court is rid of any unnecessary controversies", reads the letter dated today.

The letter has been authored on behalf of Justices (retd.) K Chandru, KN Basha, T Sudanthiram, D Hariparantham, K Kannan and GM Akbar Ali.

In the meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Advocates' Association (TNAA), has released another statement condemning the remarks made by Suriya and his conduct to undermine constitutional functionaries.

On Sunday, Justice Subramaniam had written to Chief Justice AP Sahi registering disapproval over a public statement made by Suriya wherein he is reported to have said,

“... while afraid of risking their lives due to corona fear, the court which dispenses justice through video-conferencing is ordering the students to go and write the NEET examination without fear.”

In his September 13 letter, Justice Subramaniam had opined that the same amounts to criminal contempt as the integrity and devotion of the Judges had been undermined and criticised in bad shape.

The six former judges, however, have expressed a difference of opinion over the issue, and requested that Suriya's comment be viewed in the context in which it was made.

Referring to Justice Subramaniam's view that Suriya's comments amounted to criminal contempt of court, the six former judges have written,

"We are afraid that such a construction made on the statement of Surya will be slightly off the mark and it does not require any action as required by the learned Judge."

"Where four students have committed suicide unable to meet the NEET requirement and in such a supercharged atmosphere, an artistic person’s overreaction should not be taken seriously out of context."
the letter adds.

Viewed in this context, the former judges call for magnanimity to be shown to the actor rather than act on the complaint for contempt, stating,

"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 would show generosity and magnanimity in leaving the matter without any cognisance."

On the other hand, a statement by the TNAA has come out in support of Justice Subramaniam's stance, asserting that,

"The statement of the said Actor Mr Surya is highly condemnable, downgrading the judicial function, defaming the Hon’ble Judges (and this) cannot be accepted…he should be dealt appropriately and he should face contempt proceedings initiated by the Hon’ble Mr Justice SM Subramaniam after following the due procedure of law."

The TNAA letter asserts that Suriya’s statement does not fall under the category of permissible freedom of speech and expression and that it has “crossed all limits” in nailing against the Judges.

The TNAA further states that Suriya had no right to make such statements, especially in a pandemic situation when the courts are continuously functioning without any hindrance and delivering justice to all.

The statement, signed off by TNAA President and Senior Advocate S Prabakaran, further states,

“I am wondering what does the actor Surya know about the functioning of the Judiciary instead of acting in movies and reciting scripts written. by scriptwriters. Even the political parties and the government concerned have not criticised the functioning of the courts and they have been fighting only in courts… the said actor being a citizen first should know the courtesy towards his speech and respect to the judiciary because the Judicial System is the ultimate even in the pre-independence and post-independence. This system has only safeguarded the fundamental rights of every citizen…”

The “hate speech” by the actor has sent the wrong sign to the citizens of India and he cannot be “just let go” but rather, he must withdraw the statement about the judiciary’s functioning on which he has not business to comment or criticise, the TNAA has said.

Read the Letter by the 6 former judges:

Letter to CJ AP Sahi by 6 former Madras HC Judges.pdf

Read the TNAA statement:

TNAA Statement- Re Contempt against Suriya.pdf
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