CHENNAI: Putting an end to the criminal contempt of court proceedings against actor Suriya for his comment on the Supreme Court decision to permit NEET exams during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first bench led by Chief Justice AP Sahi and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy of the Madras High Court in an order on Friday declined to pursue the matter.
In the 29-page order, the bench agreed with the opinions of advocate general Vijay Narayan who also declined to provide consent in initiating criminal contempt proceedings against the actor. As per the constitutional rules, for initiating contempt proceedings, the state advocate general must consent.
The court had perused the contents of the statement of the actor disclosed in the letter of Justice S M Subramaniam on September 14 and his opinion, as also the other letters, the judges said a language, which might be perfectly proper if uttered in a temperate manner, may be grossly improper if uttered in a different manner.
"The background in which the statement of the cine actor has been taken to be a subject matter of undermining the authority of the court and judges and devotion of the judges towards their duty is their mode of functioning through virtual hearing during the pandemic. But before a mocking comment is made, it should also be weighed as to whether it is fair criticism or not. This too at the instance of one who is stated to be a philanthropist and a self-righteous person dedicated to the cause of the public at large," observed the court.
Actor Suriya's response
Actor Suriya took to Twitter, to share that he is content with the fairness upheld by by the judiciary in the matter.
He said, "I'm deeply moved by the institutional magnanimity of the Indian judiciary. I have always held out judiciary in the highest esteem, which is the only hope for upholding the constitutional rights of our people. I'm humbled and inspired by the fairness and justice demonstrated by the Hon'ble High Court of Madras."
The Madras High Court in its order also emphasized that virtual courts being held are a success with a total of 42233 cases disposed of by both Principal Seat and Madurai Bench of Madras High Court since March till September 15.
“What may appear to be disrespectful may also be short of insult and may be touching the borders of criticism. A reasonable precaution has to be taken in matters of public affairs, particularly courts, judges and their functioning, where fair and temperate criticism should not be contemptuous,” they said.
"A person in public life enjoys a position because of the responsibility with which he conducts himself and not by making other human activities look small for perceptibly no valid reason, but we would not say anything further, as we find that the NEET examinations and the dispute around it was not even a subject matter of the courts in the state of Tamil Nadu," they added.
“We would like to draw the curtain on these proceedings with a fond hope that the entire judicial system that fosters on the faith of the public at large should be the concern of everyone to preserve it in our endeavour to deliver justice. Here again, we would like to remind ourself of the onerous duties depicted in how to dispense what is known as justice,” the court said in its order.