Madras High Court judge Justice SM Subramaniam has urged Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against Tamil actor Suriya over his comments on conducting the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for undergraduate medical courses amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bar and Bench reported on Monday.

In a statement on Sunday, the actor said that though courts were ordering students to write exams fearlessly, judges themselves were hearing cases via video conference amid the pandemic. Last week, five candidates who were to appear for the NEET died by suicide in Tamil Nadu. “It becomes a lifelong punishment for the parents who suffer after losing their children to an unfair system of tests,” Suriya wrote. The actor called the deaths “painful”.

Subramaniam took exception to Suriya’s statement and urged the chief justice to “uphold the majesty of our Indian judicial system” by initiating contempt action. “The statement reveals that the hon’ble judges are afraid of their own life and rendering justice through video conferencing,” he said. “While-so, they have no morale to pass orders directing the students to appear for NEET exam 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 for the public confidence on the judiciary.”

Advocate General for Tamil Nadu Vijay Narayan told the website that no one has filed a petition for contempt proceedings. “In criminal contempt, the attorney general’s consent is sought,” he said. “But that does not bar the court from initiating contempt suo motu. From what I read in the newspapers, it is only a letter written to the chief justice. I do not know what the chief intends to do with it.”

The Supreme Court had earlier this month rejected petitions to postpone NEET and the Joint Entrance Examination in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The JEE has already been held from September 1 to 6, and the results declared. NEET was held on September 13 and more than 16 lakh students took the exam.