Chennai: The Madras High Court Friday said that cine actor Surya’s comments on the judiciary could have been avoided and may have been “unnecessary and unwarranted”, but ruled out initiation of contempt of court proceedings.
The issue cropped up after High Court Justice SM Subramaniam wrote to Chief Justice AP Sahi for initiation of contempt of court action against the actor on the charge of criticising the judiciary and undermining the integrity of Judges as well as the judicial system.
Objecting to the actor’s statement, Justice Subramaniam said that in his view, Surya’s statement amounts to contempt of court as the judiciary has been criticised and the integrity and devotion of the Judges as well as the judicial system have been undermined.
He contended that Surya’s statement “… reveals that the Hon’ble Judges are afraid of their own life and rendering justice through videoconferencing. While so, they have no moral (right) to pass orders directing the students to appear in NEET without fear.”
“The said statement, in my considered opinion, amounts to contempt of court as the integrity and devotion of the Hon’ble Judges as well as the judicial system of our great nation are not only undermined but criticised in a bad shape, wherein there is threat to public confidence in the judiciary.
“Thus, cine actor Surya has committed contempt, warranting contempt proceedings to uphold the majesty of our Indian judicial system,” Justice Subramaniam had said.
The High Court said that on pursuing the actor’s statement, it found that a language which might be perfectly proper if uttered in a temperate manner can be grossly improper if uttered in a different manner.
“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,” the court held.
The court said: “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 tea cup.”
The court also pointed out that the NEET and the dispute surrounding it was not even a subject matter of the courts in Tamil Nadu.
“A self-righteous person should himself be humble enough to acknowledge the contribution of others,” the court held.