In a landmark development, the Supreme Court of India, during its hearing on Tuesday that on 21.11.2023, delivered a scathing reprimand to Patanjali Ayurved, the well-known company co-founded by yoga guru Baba Ramdev, for persistently disseminating misleading claims and advertisements against modern systems of medicine. The court’s admonishment came in response to a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) concerning the proliferation of deceptive advertisements.

A bench comprising Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Prashant Kumar Mishra unequivocally directed Patanjali Ayurved to cease immediately all false and misleading advertisements. Justice Amanullah stressed that the court would take a stringent stance, contemplating penalties of up to Rs. 1 crore for every product that falsely claims to “cure” a specific disease.

The court’s firm directives encompassed a prohibition on Patanjali Ayurved from future publications of such advertisements. Additionally, the company was instructed to refrain from making casual statements in the press regarding their products.

During the hearing, the bench emphasized its intent to not engage in an “Allopathy v. Ayurveda” debate but rather to address the issue of misleading medical advertisements earnestly. The justices highlighted their commitment to seeking a genuine solution to curb the dissemination of false information in the medical domain.

Expressing their serious consideration of the matter, the bench urged the Additional Solicitor General of India, KM Nataraj, to facilitate the government’s role in finding an effective resolution. The Union Government was tasked with formulating viable recommendations following consultations, signaling a collaborative effort to address this pressing concern. The case is scheduled for further consideration on February 5, 2024.

This recent court intervention follows a previous instance where the Supreme Court had issued a notice on the IMA’s petition, reprimanding Baba Ramdev for disparaging statements made against modern medical systems like Allopathy. The then Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana, had urged restraint, acknowledging Baba Ramdev’s role in popularizing yoga but cautioning against baseless criticisms of other medical systems.

The IMA’s petition raises concerns about the continual spread of misinformation by Patanjali Ayurved, alleging a systematic and continuous dissemination of misleading advertisements that undermine allopathy and make false claims regarding disease cures.

One such contentious advertisement cited in the plea, published on July 10, 2022, was titled “MISCONCEPTIONS SPREAD BY ALLOPATHY: SAVE YOURSELF AND THE COUNTRY FROM THE MISCONCEPTIONS SPREAD BY PHARMA AND MEDICAL INDUSTRY.” The IMA contends that while commercial entities have the right to promote products, Patanjali’s unverified claims directly contravene laws such as the Drugs & Other Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

The petition underscores instances where Swami Ramdev, associated with Patanjali, made controversial remarks, branding allopathy as a “stupid and bankrupt science” and making unfounded claims about deaths attributed to allopathic medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave.

Furthermore, the IMA accuses Patanjali of spreading false rumors about COVID-19 vaccines, contributing to vaccine hesitancy, and alleges Swami Ramdev’s mockery of citizens seeking oxygen cylinders during the pandemic’s peak.

Despite the Ministry of AYUSH’s collaboration with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to monitor misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs, Patanjali is accused of blatantly disregarding laws, violating the established mandate with impunity.

The legal framework In India, specifically the Drugs & Other Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, prohibits false claims in advertisements and safeguards consumers against misleading information. These laws aim to ensure the veracity of product claims and prevent deceptive practices in the marketing of pharmaceutical and healthcare products.

The unfolding legal battle between the IMA and Patanjali Ayurved underscores the imperative for stringent adherence to these laws to protect public health and ensure the dissemination of accurate information in the medical domain. The Supreme Court’s intervention signifies a pivotal step towards reining in misleading advertisements and upholding the integrity of the healthcare industry in India.

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