Suriya's remarks on NEET: 'No action' against the actor! Here's what the HC said

Pouring a legal relief amid being attacked by the pro-NEET members over his remarks of castigating the Center in conducting the national entrance exam, the Madras High Court has on Friday said that there has been no ground under which the charges of the contempt of court can be initiated against Actor Suriya. 

Actor Suriya has been a vocal critic of the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) and after three NEET aspirants had committed suicide in Tamil Nadu in a day last Saturday owing to the fear and challenges in writing the national entrance exam, the actor had penned a scathing letter of voicing against the Center and pressed the statewide call of banning the exam. 

In his statement, the actor has criticized the judiciary and said that while the judges are appearing for the court proceedings through video-conference in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the courts are ordering the students to be fearless and appear for the national exam in person amid the pandemic. By labeling the NEET as 'Manu Dharma' tests, Suriya underlined that these exams are snatching the opportunities of the students and also killing them. 

He stated that it becomes a life sentence for parents who had lost their children to the biased and unfair system of the national exam and called everyone to raise the voices against the NEET that burns the dreams of the medical aspirants who are coming from the backward and marginalized communities. He added that the NEET has killed three students in a day and what happened today, happened yesterday, and it will happen tomorrow as well. 

His statement had rampantly shared across the social media and his criticism on judiciary had troubled him after Justice of Madras High Court SM Subramaniam had written to Chief Justice AP Sahi to initiate contempt proceedings against the actor for his comments about judiciary.  In his letter seeking the contempt of proceedings against Suriya, Justice Subramaniam said that the actor's remarks had revealed that the judges are afraid of their own life and rendering justice through video conferencing. 

Though Justice Subramaniam had requested the Chief Justice to take action against the actor, some of the former judged had come in support of Suriya. Amid the developments, the Principal Bench of the Madras High Court had on Friday said it didn't initiate contempt proceedings against actor Suriya over his recent remarks. The High Court bench comprised of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy had asked the actor to consider his words before speaking. 

The Justices had noted that, "We find that the utterances by the 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. The High Court observed that Suriya's remarks neither amount to contempt nor to the level of criminal contempt".

The court observed that the individuals must carefully frame their minds and express themselves that may not cross the borders of any fair and just criticism. On the other hand, the court said that 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 criminal contempt. The bench added that, "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".

According to reports, Advocate General of Tamil Nadu Government Vijay Narayan had recommended the court not to initiate the contempt of court charges against the actor. The Attorney General's consent is required to initiate criminal contempt under the Contempt of Court Act. The High Court bench said they entirely agree with the opinion of the advocate general in denying consent to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the actor. 

Actor Suriya, who runs Agaram Trust to help and support the education of the backward students, has been one of the notable faces in the state to call to ban the NEET. In the last one month, Tamil Nadu had seen five NEET aspirants who committed suicide and ended their lives with the fear and anxiety that they won't get a medical seat after failing to clear the entrance exam. The shocking developments had stirred the outrage and demand from the students, parents, and opposition party leaders to repeal the NEET.