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Patanjali is warned again, but does it care?

The court has also restrained the firm from advertising or marketing its products intended to treat specific diseases listed under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act (DOMA), until further orders.
Last Updated 05 March 2024, 00:36 IST

The strong words used by the Supreme Court about Patanjali Ayurved’s advertising practices are the latest in the warnings issued by the court about the company’s conduct. The court has issued contempt notices to the company’s founder Baba Ramdev, and its Managing Director, Acharya Balkrishna, and has made a scathing indictment of its practices by saying that the company was taking the entire country for a ride through its advertisements. The court had warned the company last year that a fine of Rs 1 crore would be imposed per product if a false claim was made regarding its efficacy. The court has also restrained the firm from advertising or marketing its products intended to treat specific diseases listed under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act (DOMA), until further orders.  

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had approached the court with a complaint about the company’s misleading advertisements, including an ad campaign by Patanjali accusing the pharma and allopathy industry of spreading “misconceptions”. Ramdev had publicly described allopathy as a “stupid and bankrupt science” and said that allopathic medicines were responsible for Covid-19 deaths. The IMA has told the court about Patanjali’s efforts to make false and unfounded claims about curing certain diseases through the use of its products. Ramdev is an influential person, well-connected in the corridors of power, and has built a business empire with manufacturing and sale of ayurvedic medicines. He has displayed an attitude of impunity to criticism and has not cared to heed the top court’s warnings. The AYUSH ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Advertising Standards Council of India in 2017 to identify misleading advertisements. But Patanjali has continued with its campaign. 

Publication of misleading advertisements about a drug is prohibited under the DOMA and would attract imprisonment and fine, whose quantum would increase for repeat offences. Action can be taken under the Consumer Protection Act also. But no steps have been taken against Patanjali for its offences. The court has now again warned the firm against making adverse statements about other systems of medicine. It has underlined the need for strict enforcement of rules and questioned the functioning of the regulatory bodies and government agencies in the matter. It has also pulled up the government for “sitting with eyes closed,” and sought a clarification on the action taken under various laws for implementation of advertising standards. The country has large sections of people who are not knowledgeable about medicine and who are easily swayed by claims made by persons like Ramdev. The government has said that it would look into the allegations, but it should ensure that action is taken in the interest of public health. 

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(Published 05 March 2024, 00:36 IST)

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