• Virender Singh

ILL-ADVISED move: on threat of contempt proceedings against Suriya{PDF}

SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

By SEEKING contempt action for an INNOCUOUS comment, HC judge has SET OFF controversy

Given the EMBARRASSMENT and ADVERSE publicity SUFFERED by the Supreme Court because of its VERDICT holding advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt for a couple of tweets, one would have thought the superior judiciary would avoid WADING into needless controversies by INVOKING its contempt jurisdiction. However, Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the Madras High Court SEEMS to believe that anyone criticising judges should be DEALT with by the threat of contempt. In an ill-advised move, he has written to the Chief Justice, seeking permission to INITIATE contempt PROCEEDINGS against PROMINENT Tamil actor Suriya for an innocuous comment on recent judicial orders declining to interfere with the conduct of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical courses. The actor, responding with ANGUISH to recent suicides by MBBS aspirants out of fear of failure, had remarked that “a court that dispenses justice through video-conferencing out of fear of the coronavirus is ordering students to write an exam without fear”. The judge claims that the actor had questioned the INTEGRITY and DEVOTION of judges and that such a remark, if unpunished, would undermine public trust in the judiciary. It is only PETULANT resort to contempt law without necessary cause that would make the layman lose trust in courts. No reasonable person who reads Mr. Suriya’s statement would CONSTRUE it as contempt of court, as it does nothing more than state an obvious fact: while the pandemic has resulted in virtual hearings, the court has allowed an examination involving a million-and-a-half students.

As pointed out by six former judges of the High Court in a letter to the Chief Justice asking him not to ACT ON Justice Subramaniam’s letter, the judge’s construction of the actor’s comments is OFF THE MARK. Besides, no one would believe that the actor had INTERFERED with any judicial PROCEEDING through his comment, or that it HINDERED the administration of justice in any way. That a judge should show unbelievable ALACRITY in SHOOTING OFF a letter to the Chief Justice, within hours of the actor’s statement being AIRED ON television, evidences an alarming level of intolerance towards criticism and a MONARCHICAL understanding of how courts ought to deal with public opinion. The actor, who also runs a voluntary organisation dedicated to increasing access to education for under-PRIVILEGED children, has commented in the past, too, on matters related to education. There is no reason to abridge his constitutional right to do so, especially on an issue of public importance. Further, Justice Subramaniam’s request is also impermissible in law. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to initiate contempt in respect of an order passed by the Supreme Court, going by the apex court’s verdict in Vitusah Oberoi (2017). There is no reason for Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi to permit initiation of contempt action against Mr. Suriya.

Meanings of Words/Phrases in bold

1. ILL-ADVISED(adj)- not sensible, wise, or prudent.

2. SEEKING(v)-to try to find or get somethingकुछ ढूँढ़ने या पाने की कोशिश करना; तलाश करना

3. INNOCUOUS(adj)-not meant to cause harm or upset somebodyअहानिकर, सीधा-सादा

4. SET OFF(phrase)-to put in relief : show up by contrast.

5. EMBARRASSMENT(n)-the feeling you have when you are embarrassedलज्जित होने का भाव

6. ADVERSE(adj)-making something difficult for somebodyप्रतिकूल, विरुद्घ

7. SUFFERED(v)-to experience something unpleasant, for example pain, sadness, difficulty, etc.

8. VERDICT(n)-a decision that you make or an opinion that you give after testing something or considering something carefully

9. WADING(v)-to walk with difficulty through fairly deep water, mud, etc

10. INVOKING(v)-to mention or use a law, rule etc. as a reason for doing something(किसी कार्य के समर्थन में) नियम, क़ानून आदि प्रयोग करना

11. SEEMS(v)-to give the impression of being or doing something; to appearकुछ होने या करने की प्रतीति कराना; प्रतीत होना, लगाना

12. DEALT(v)-to do business, especially buying and selling goods

13. INITIATE(v)-to explain something to somebody or make him/her experience something for the first timeपहली बार किसी को कोई बात समझाना या कुछ अनुभव कराना

14. PROMINENT(adj)-important or famousमहत्वपूर्ण या प्रसिद्घ

15. ANGUISH(n)-great mental pain or sufferingगहरी वेदना या पीड़ा; मनोव्‍यथा

16. DISPENSES(v)-to give or provide people with somethingकिसी को कोई वस्‍तु मुहैया या उपलब्‍ध कराना

17. INTEGRITY(n)-the quality of being honest and having strong moral principlesईमानदारी और दृढ़ नैतिकता, सत्‍य-निष्‍ठा

18. DEVOTION(n)-the act of giving a lot of your time, energy, etc. to somebody/somethingकिसी काम में बहुत-सा समय और शक्ति लगाने की क्रिया; समर्पण भाव

19. PETULANT(adj)-bad-tempered and unreasonable, especially because you cannot have or do what you want

20. CONSTRUE(v)-to understand the meaning of something in a particular wayकिसी बात का विशेष अर्थ लगाना, किसी बात का विशेष ढंग से समझा जाना

21. ACT ON (p)-to use (something, such as a feeling or suggestion) as a reason or basis for doing something

22. OFF THE MARK (phr)-a long way from an intended target.

23. INTERFERED(v)-to get involved in a situation which does not involve you and where you are not wantedस्‍वयं अलिप्‍त रहते हुए दूसरे के मामले में (उसकी इच्‍छा के विरुद्घ) लिप्‍त होना, दख़ल देना; हस्‍तक्षेप करना

24. HINDERED(v)-to make it more difficult for somebody/something to do somethingव्‍यक्ति या वस्‍तु के लिए कठिनाई पैदा करना, किसी के काम में बाधा डालना

25. ALACRITY(n)-great willingness, eagerness or enthusiasmअतिउत्साह, तत्परता, प्रफुल्लता

26. SHOOTING OFF(p)-to leave a place quickly and suddenly


28. MONARCHICAL(adj)-relating to a monarch or monarchy.

29. PRIVILEGED(adj)-having an advantage or opportunity that most people do not haveविशेष सुविधा या अवसर से संपन्‍न विशेषाधिकार-संपन्‍न

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