Suriya's statement after Madras High Court declines to open contempt proceedings for NEET remarks
Actor Suriya's name has been embroiled in a controversy of late after he put out a letter on September 13 condemning the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). The letter was published by the star following reports of three NEET aspirants passing away due to suicide a day before the exam was held on Sunday. Labeling such exams as 'Manu Dharma tests', Suriya had stated that 'Manuneethi exams’ like NEET took away opportunities from students and also in turn ended up killing them. For parents, it has been turning into a life sentence as they are losing their children to the system of exams, which he went on to call as being unfair. He also said that it is imperative that parents and teachers remain vigilant in an education system that does not pay attention to the welfare of the students.
Following his statements, Suriya faced backlash from various corners of the judiciary with a call for contempt proceedings to be initiated against the actor for his criticism on the NEET exam. However, contempt proceedings against the actor were not initiated by the Principal Bench of the Madras High Court, after which Suriya took to his social media pages on Friday to release a statement thanking the judiciary. His statement is as follows:
"I'm deeply moved by the institutional magnanimity of the Indian judiciary. I have always held our 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.
Earlier, Chief Justice AP Sahi had declined Justice SM Subramaniam's request for initiating contempt proceedings against Suriya for his comments against the judiciary. Justice SM Subramaniam stated that he wanted to initiate contempt proceedings against the actor as his statements criticized judges and the Indian judicial system. He had referred to Suriya's remarks around the operations of the courts during the coronavirus pandemic crisis. The actor had slammed the judiciary saying courts were telling students to appear for the exams in person without any fear, while judges were conducting proceedings via video-conferencing.
Informing Suriya to give a thought to his words before speaking, the HC said, "A statement made in exuberance may bring about a trial and, therefore, in view of the peculiar status on which this institution is pedestalled under the Constitution, it would be prudent on the part of the individuals to carefully frame their minds and express themselves that may not cross the borders of any fair and just criticism."
The court had further criticised Suriya saying, "Drawing support from what we have expressed herein above, we find that the utterances by the cine actor may have been absolutely unnecessary or even unwarranted, for being ignorant of the manner in which the entire judiciary of this State has served the interest of its citizens during this pandemic, and any such statement could have been avoided in a much more sober way, instead of an accusing tone, which though trivial in nature has raised a storm in a teacup."
Having said that, the court cited in its order that Suriya’s comments were not of contempt in nature nor to the level of criminal contempt. "On the other hand, it is not the job of a constitutional Court to use a sledgehammer for avoidance of something which can be perceived to be not capable of even being propped up as a contempt, much less debated to the level of a criminal contempt," the court said. "This matter, therefore, in our judicious discretion does not deserve to be pursued further and we entirely agree with the opinion expressed by the learned Advocate General," the order further stated.
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