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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Supreme Court comes down heavily on Patanjali for prima facie violation of undertaking on claims, ads

The bench also cautioned Patanjali Ayurved and its officers from making any statements adverse to any system of medicine in the media, both print and electronic, in any form as they said in their undertaking before the court earlier

PTI New Delhi Published 27.02.24, 04:04 PM
Representational picture.

Representational picture. File picture.

The entire country has been "taken for a ride", the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while restraining till further orders Patanjali Ayurved, a company co-founded yoga guru Ramdev and dealing in herbal products, from advertising or branding products meant for treating diseases.

Issuing notices to Patanjali Ayurved and managing director Acharya Balkrishna, the SC asked why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for prima facie violating the firm's undertaking given in the court about advertising of its products and their medicinal efficacy.

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A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah also cautioned the company and its officers against making any media statements, both in print and electronic, against any system of medicine in any form as stated in their undertaking on November 21 last year.

"The entire country has been taken for a ride," the bench observed, while questioning the Centre as to what action it has taken against Patanjali Ayurved for the alleged incorrect assertions and misrepresentation in advertisements about its medicines as cure of several diseases.

The top court is hearing a plea of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) alleging a smear campaign by Ramdev against the vaccination drive and modern medicines.

On November 21 last year, the counsel representing the company had assured the court that "henceforth there shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products manufactured and marketed by it and, further, that no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form".

The top court had then cautioned the company against making "false" and "misleading" claims in advertisements about its medicines as cure of several diseases.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the top court referred to the statement given by the counsel representing Patanjali Ayurved before it in November last year and said it was "bound down" to such assurance by the court.

It said that till further orders, Patanjali Ayurved will be restrained from advertising or branding of products which are specified as diseases, disorders or conditions in the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

The bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, who was appearing for the Centre, as to what action they have taken.

It referred to the November last year order which noted the ASG had submitted that he may be permitted to obtain instructions, after full and effective consultation with the authorities concerned insofar as checking of alleged incorrect assertions or misrepresentation for various products with regard to their purported medicinal efficacy was concerned.

"For two years, you wait for this when the Act itself says it is prohibited," the bench said, adding, the Centre has to do something urgently.

The ASG said it is for the state governments to take action under the Act.

The bench also took exception to one of the advertisements published by Patanjali after the November last year order of the apex court.

"You (Patanjali) have flouted this order (of November 2023)," it said. "You have this courage and guts to come up with this advertisement even after the Supreme Court's order… We are going to pass a very strict order. You are tempting the court".

The counsel appearing for the IMA referred to the advertisement and transcription of a press conference by the company, in which certain statements were allegedly made about medicinal efficacy of their products, after the November last year order.

The counsel claimed this amply demonstrates that Patanjali Ayurved was continuing to make "incorrect assertions and misrepresentation" in respect of its various products in the market by describing them as permanent solution to such ailments which have been specifically listed in the schedule appended to the 1954 Act.

"Prima facie, this court is of the opinion that respondent no.5 (Patanjali Ayurved) is in violation of the undertaking given and recorded in order passed on November 21, 2023," the bench observed.

"Issue notice as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against the respondent no. 5, its managing director," it said.

The counsel appearing for Patanjali sought time to file a response to the notice. The bench, while granting time to file response, posted the matter for hearing on March 19.

During the hearing, the bench asked the ASG about what consultations had taken place after the last hearing and whether it was verified that there were incorrect assertions and representations regarding medicinal efficacy.

The ASG said consultation of different agencies was required in the matter.

"Under this Act, the power or the duty is also cast that you have to keep monitoring and you can't or should not wait for a complaint to come," the bench said, while terming it unfortunate.

When the counsel appearing for Patanjali said a complete ban on its advertisements may not be fair, the bench observed, "How can we make it conditional when you yourself are not adhering to your undertaking".

Patanjali's counsel informed the bench that they have set up a research laboratory at a cost of nearly Rs 40 crore.

"You have done a research, that it good. There is a system. We respect all the systems but we expect the others, who are following a particular system, also to respect others," the bench said.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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