In this edition of the Editorial, Mr. Sujit Nair discusses the recent court rebuke directed at the Patanjali brand for disseminating misleading advertisements against modern medicines. On Tuesday (November 21), the Supreme Court criticized Patanjali Ayurved for persistently publishing deceptive claims and advertisements targeting modern medical practices. The bench, consisting of Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Prashant Kumar Mishra, issued a stern warning to the company co-founded by Baba Ramdev in response to a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) against misleading advertisements. Justice Amanullah conveyed that all false and misleading advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved must cease immediately. The court expressed its intent to take any such violations seriously and hinted at imposing costs of Rs. 1 crore on every product associated with a false claim of curing a specific disease. Subsequently, Patanjali Ayurved assured the court that it would refrain from publishing such advertisements in the future and committed to avoiding casual statements in the press. The court recorded this undertaking in its order. During the proceedings, the bench emphasized its reluctance to turn the issue into an “”Allopathy vs. Ayurveda”” debate but stressed the need for a genuine solution to address the problem of misleading medical advertisements. The bench informed the Additional Solicitor General of India, KM Nataraj, that the Union Government must propose viable recommendations after consultations. The court scheduled the next hearing for February 5, 2024. Last year, while issuing notice on the IMA’s petition, the court criticized Baba Ramdev for making statements against modern medicine systems like Allopathy. The then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana questioned why Ramdev should criticize other systems when he can popularize his own. The IMA’s petition raised concerns about the continuous spread of misinformation by Patanjali regarding allopathy and modern medicine, accusing the company of disparaging allopathy and making false claims about curing certain diseases. The petition specifically mentioned a July 10, 2022, advertisement titled “”MISCONCEPTIONS SPREAD BY ALLOPATHY,”” alleging that Patanjali’s unverified claims violate laws such as the Drugs & Other Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The IMA also highlighted controversial statements made by Swami Ramdev, including derogatory remarks about allopathy and unfounded claims about deaths due to allopathic medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition further accused Patanjali of spreading false information about COVID-19 vaccines and contributing to vaccine hesitancy, despite the Ministry of AYUSH signing an MoU with the Advertising Standards Council of India for monitoring misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs.
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