In a significant development, the Supreme Court has taken a strong stance against misleading advertisements, particularly those propagated by Patanjali Ayurved. The court, led by Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, issued a notice to Patanjali Ayurved and its Managing Director, Acharya Balakrishna, for contempt of court after the company allegedly violated a previous undertaking not to publish misleading advertisements regarding medicinal cures.

The court’s action stemmed from a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which sought to control negative advertisements against the vaccination drive and modern medicines. The IMA’s concerns were echoed by the bench, which expressed dissatisfaction with the Union Government’s failure to take action against Patanjali’s misleading advertisements, despite a previous court order.

During the proceedings, Justice Kohli questioned the government’s compliance with the court’s directives from November 2023, which instructed action against incorrect assertions regarding the medical efficacy of products. The court highlighted the seriousness of the issue, with Justice Amanullah stating, “The entire country is taken for a ride! You wait for two years when the Act says this [misleading advertisements] is prohibited.”

Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, representing the IMA, informed the court that Patanjali continued to make misleading claims despite an earlier court order. Instances were cited where Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna allegedly made false claims regarding permanent cures for various ailments. The court expressed dismay at Patanjali’s actions and questioned the company’s counsel, Senior Advocate Vipin Sanghi, regarding the misleading statements and their impact on other systems of medicine.

In response to the alleged violations, the court issued a notice to Patanjali Ayurved and restrained the company from advertising or branding products meant to address diseases specified in the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954. The court also cautioned Patanjali Ayurved against making any statements adverse to any system of medicine.

This recent development follows earlier reprimands by the Supreme Court, where Justice Amanullah warned of imposing heavy costs on Patanjali for false claims. Despite assurances from Patanjali’s counsel to refrain from such advertisements, the company allegedly flouted the court’s order, prompting the current action.

The IMA’s petition highlighted Patanjali’s continuous dissemination of misinformation disparaging allopathy and making false claims about curing diseases. The petition cited instances where Patanjali allegedly spread false rumors about COVID-19 vaccines and contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

The court clarified that its intention was not to initiate an “Allopathy v. Ayurveda” debate but to address the issue of misleading medical advertisements effectively.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s actions in this case underscore the importance of regulating advertisements in the healthcare sector and holding both companies and governments accountable for ensuring compliance with the law. This case serves as a reminder of the judiciary’s role in safeguarding public welfare and upholding the integrity of the healthcare system. The court’s firm stance against misleading advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved reflects its commitment to protecting consumers and promoting responsible marketing practices.

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