New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reprimanded Patanjali Ayurved for continuing to publish misleading claims and advertisements against modern systems of medicine.
While considering a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association against misleading advertisements, the bench comprising Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Prashant Kumar Mishra issued a stern warning to the company co-founded by Baba Ramdev, reported Live Law.
“All such false and misleading advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved have to stop immediately. The court will take any such infraction very seriously, and the court will also consider imposing costs to the extent of Rs 1 crore on every product regarding which a false claim is made that it can 'cure' a particular disease,” Justice Amanullah orally said.
Following this, the court directed that Patanjali Ayurved shall not publish any such advertisements in the future, and would also ensure that casual statements are not made by it in the Press.
The bench observed during the hearing that it did not wish to make the issue an "Allopathy v. Ayurveda" debate but wanted to find a real solution to the problem of misleading medical advertisements.
Stating that it is examining the issue seriously, the bench told the Additional Solicitor General of India K M Nataraj that the Union Government will have to find a viable solution to tackle the problem. The Government was asked to come up with suitable recommendations after consultations. The matter will be considered next on February 5, 2024.
Last year, while issuing notice on the IMA's petition, the court pulled up Baba Ramdev for making statements against modern medicine systems like Allopathy.
"What happened to Baba Ramdev? He can popularise his system, but why should he criticise other systems? We all respect him, he popularised yoga but he shouldn't criticise other systems. What is the guarantee that his system will work? He cannot refuse the doctor system. He must exercise restraint in abusing other systems," the then Chief Justice of India N V Ramana had observed then.
The writ petition was filed by the IMA raising concerns over what they term a "continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation" regarding allopathy and the modern system of medicine. The petition asserts that Patanjali's misleading advertisements disparage allopathy and make false claims about curing certain diseases.
The plea referred to a half-page advertisement published on July 10, 2022, titled "MISCONCEPTIONS SPREAD BY ALLOPATHY: SAVE YOURSELF AND THE COUNTRY FROM THE MISCONCEPTIONS SPREAD BY PHARMA AND MEDICAL INDUSTRY."
The IMA contends that while every commercial entity has the right to promote its products, the unverified claims made by Patanjali are in direct violation of laws such as the Drugs & Other Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Additionally, the petition highlights previous instances where Swami Ramdev, associated with Patanjali, made controversial statements, including calling allopathy a "stupid and bankrupt science" and making unfounded claims about the deaths of people due to allopathic medicines during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMA further accuses Patanjali of spreading false rumours about COVID-19 vaccines and contributing to vaccine hesitancy. Swami Ramdev's alleged mockery and derision of citizens searching for oxygen cylinders during the second wave are also cited in the petition.
The petition emphasizes that despite the Ministry of AYUSH signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for monitoring misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs, Patanjali has continued its alleged disregard for the law, violating the mandate with impunity.
(With Live Law inputs)