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SC Questions Patanjali: Are Apologies as Prominent as Advertisements?

SC Questions Patanjali: Are Apologies as Prominent as Advertisements?

Today, the Supreme Court inquired whether the public apology published by Patanjali Ayurved in newspapers matched the scale of their advertisements.

A bench consisting of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah was reviewing the contempt case against Patanjali Ayurveda, its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna, and co-founder Baba Ramdev. This case pertains to the publication of misleading medical advertisements, which violated an undertaking given to the Supreme Court in November 2023.

Yesterday, Patanjali Ayurved issued apologies through advertisements in specific newspapers, acknowledging the error of publishing advertisements and conducting a press conference despite statements made by their advocates in the apex court. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Patanjali, informed the bench about these advertisements. Additionally, both Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna were personally present in court during the proceedings.

"Is the apology the same size as your advertisements?," Justice Kohli asked. "It costs tens of lakhs," replied Rohatgi adding that the apology was published in 67 newspapers. "Does it cost the same tens of lakhs of rupees for the full-page advertisements you published? We are wondering", Justice Kohli asked.

The bench, in adjourning the hearing until April 30, asked Patanjali's legal representatives to provide a copy of the apology advertisements for the record. Additionally, the bench chastised Patanjali's lawyers for failing to present the apology advertisement during the proceedings.

The bench also indicated its intention to delve into the broader issue of misleading health claims made by FMCG companies. As a result, it included the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as parties to the case.

The bench also sought an explanation from the Union Government regarding a letter issued by the AYUSH Ministry. This letter advised states to abstain from taking action against the advertisement of AYUSH products in accordance with Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

The bench also noted that the petitioner, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), should address concerns regarding alleged unethical conduct by doctors, including some who are members of the IMA. Consequently, the bench directed the inclusion of the Indian Medical Association as a party to the case.

Previously, the Court had rejected the affidavits of apology submitted by Patanjali and Ramdev, deeming them not unqualified or unconditional. On the preceding occasion, both Ramdev and Balkrishna personally apologized to the Supreme Court after facing extensive questioning from the bench.

During the April 10 hearing, the Court strongly criticized the Uttarakhand State authorities for their failure to take action against Patanjali under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954. Additionally, the Court reprimanded the Union Government for not addressing the COVID cure claims made by Patanjali regarding its "Coronil" product during the pandemic.

Case Title: INDIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION v. UNION OF INDIA | W.P.(C) No. 645/2022

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