ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

SC Asks Baba Ramdev to Issue Public Apology: What’s the Patanjali Case About?

Ahead of the next hearing, FIT breaks down four major questions about the SC's ban on Patanjali's misleading ads.

Updated
Fit
5 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

Patanjali's Co-founder Baba Ramdev and Managing Director Acharya Balakrishna have been given a week's time by the Supreme Court to issue a public apology over misleading advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved Limited.

Nearly ago, on 27 February, the top court had passed an interim verdict saying Patanjali had violated its November 2023 undertaking by continuing to publish misleading advertisements.

On 2 April, continuing to hear the Indian Medical Association's plea seeking action against Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved Limited over misleading advertisements, the Supreme Court refused to accept the affidavit of apology filed by them calling it 'mere lip service'.

The court had ordered Patanjali to immediately stop the advertising and branding of products falsely marketed as cures for various diseases and disorders that don't otherwise have a proven cure.

Ahead of the next hearing, FIT breaks down four important questions:

  • What is the case against Patanjali?

  • What does the interim verdict mean?

  • This is not the first time the company has been pulled up by the apex court, so what's different this time?

  • What is expected to happen now?

SC Asks Baba Ramdev to Issue Public Apology: What’s the Patanjali Case About?

  1. 1. What is the Case Against Patanjali?

    In August 2022, the Indian Medical Association filed an official petition in the top court against Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, raising two main complaints:

    1. The company has made unsubstantiated claims that its products can completely and permanently cure certain diseases and disorders, including COVID-19.

    2. They have carried out a 'smear campaign' against modern medicine and the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

    Speaking to FIT, after the interim order, Dr KV Babu, ophthalmologist and RTI (right to information) activist from Kannur, Kerala, who has filed several complaints against the company in the past, said, "These ads were accusing scientific medicine saying, if you take 'allopathy' medicines, such and such harmful effects and side effects are there."

    "All of this is in clear violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act (1954)," he added.

    The Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 – or DOMA – prohibits the advertisement and marketing of remedies alleged to possess magic qualities, or products that claim to provide complete and permanent cures for certain diseases and disorders, including diabetes, heart diseases, high or low blood pressure, obesity, and asthma without any scientific evidence.

    The punishment for violating this law includes imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine.

    Expand
  2. 2. ‘Not the First Time’: A History of Past Violations

    This is not the first time the top court has reprimanded the company for misleading claims and deriding modern medicine.

    Hearing this petition on 21 November 2023, a supreme court bench, comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, asked Patanjali to immediately stop all false and misleading advertisements and threatened to impose a penalty of Rs 1 crore for every product about which such claims continue to be made.

    At the time, the counsel for Patanjali assured the court that there "shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products," and that, "no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form."

    However, during the hearing on 27 February, the IMA's counsel, senior advocate PS Patwalia, stated that just a day after the court's order in November 2023, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna (chairperson of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd) held a press conference where they made misleading claims again and continued to publish advertisements claiming that Patanjali products can provide permanent cures for ailments like diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and glaucoma.

    In 27 February's interim order, the court has taken cognisance of the violation of the November order, saying,

    "Prima facie, this court is of the opinion that the respondent No 5-Patanjali Ayurved Limited has violated the undertaking given by it and recorded in the order dated 21 November 2023."

    Yashaswini Basu, a Bangalore-based human rights lawyer explains, "So, imagine this as a blanket order and anytime a complaint is raised, this can be invoked to impose costs on them and the kind of charges right now on Patanjali Ayurved Limited, is that they disobeyed the order of the previous order."

    "This time, the strictness with which the Supreme Court has ordered, and also the timeframe that they have given suggests they mean business."
    Yashaswini Basu
    Expand
  3. 3. This is An Interim Order: What Does It Mean? What Now?

    Basu explains, "An interim verdict is when the respondent is given time to respond to the notice. This case has not been disposed of yet and there will be hearings at the end soon and depending on what the respondents produce; the court will arrive at a final order and then pass a decree."  

    As per the interim order, Patanjali was given one weeks (before the next hearing on 23 April) 'to give them an opportunity to redeem their acts', and issue the public apology.

    Furthermore, in the last hearing, the court had also asked the Union of India to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken by it to ensure that the order passed by the Supreme Court on 21 November 2023 was carried out.

    "So then that decree will decide whether whoever is held guilty can go even to jail for this, if found guilty."
    Yashaswini Basu

    In the meantime, the top court has also ordered a stay on any continued advertisements using misleading claims.   

    "They'll have to stop and abide by the notice where they have said that any sort of misleading advertisement where Patanjali product is an alternative to allopathic medicine has to be stopped," explains Basu.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Makes False Claims and Misleading Advertisements Such a Big Deal?

    Doctors, scientists, and health experts have, for years, claimed that these violations by Patanjali pose a larger threat to public health in the country.

    "Medicines and drugs that claim to treat certain illnesses have to undergo certain rigorous scientific trials to generate evidence to back these claims," Dr Vikash R Keshri, a health policy expert, tells FIT.

    He adds, "Even after having this scientific evidence, there are regulators that will review the evidence and justify which drugs should be approved and which not. These are the basic norms. "

    The basic contention that health experts have with the company is that it has been advertising claims which have not been scientifically proven with robust evidence.

    Speaking to FIT, Dr SP Kalantri, Director-Professor of medicine at MGIMS and medical superintendent of Kasturba Hospital, says that there are twin problems here.

    "If we are only prescribing medicine on some anecdotal evidence or purely on faith, then not only are the patients risking their health because of our irrational practices but we are also substantially damaging (their health) because we are exposing these patients to the known or unknown risks of the products that we are prescribing," he says.

    Dr Kalantri goes on to add, "The problem is that people are very gullible and often desperate for solutions."

    He says, "In modern medicine we often say outright, 'Sorry, there is no cure for this', but then, what happens is that this alternative medicine is quick to spot this gap in the market and start offering miracles to these people."

    "Because this company was able to slip past the regulators and allowed to operate in this manner for years, people had to go to court and ask the court to intervene."
    Dr Vikash R Keshri, health policy expert

    (FIT has reached out to Patanjali Ayurved and their legal representatives for a response over email. The article will be updated as and when they respond.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What is the Case Against Patanjali?

In August 2022, the Indian Medical Association filed an official petition in the top court against Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, raising two main complaints:

  1. The company has made unsubstantiated claims that its products can completely and permanently cure certain diseases and disorders, including COVID-19.

  2. They have carried out a 'smear campaign' against modern medicine and the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Speaking to FIT, after the interim order, Dr KV Babu, ophthalmologist and RTI (right to information) activist from Kannur, Kerala, who has filed several complaints against the company in the past, said, "These ads were accusing scientific medicine saying, if you take 'allopathy' medicines, such and such harmful effects and side effects are there."

"All of this is in clear violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act (1954)," he added.

The Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 – or DOMA – prohibits the advertisement and marketing of remedies alleged to possess magic qualities, or products that claim to provide complete and permanent cures for certain diseases and disorders, including diabetes, heart diseases, high or low blood pressure, obesity, and asthma without any scientific evidence.

The punishment for violating this law includes imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

‘Not the First Time’: A History of Past Violations

This is not the first time the top court has reprimanded the company for misleading claims and deriding modern medicine.

Hearing this petition on 21 November 2023, a supreme court bench, comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, asked Patanjali to immediately stop all false and misleading advertisements and threatened to impose a penalty of Rs 1 crore for every product about which such claims continue to be made.

At the time, the counsel for Patanjali assured the court that there "shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products," and that, "no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form."

However, during the hearing on 27 February, the IMA's counsel, senior advocate PS Patwalia, stated that just a day after the court's order in November 2023, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna (chairperson of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd) held a press conference where they made misleading claims again and continued to publish advertisements claiming that Patanjali products can provide permanent cures for ailments like diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and glaucoma.

In 27 February's interim order, the court has taken cognisance of the violation of the November order, saying,

"Prima facie, this court is of the opinion that the respondent No 5-Patanjali Ayurved Limited has violated the undertaking given by it and recorded in the order dated 21 November 2023."

Yashaswini Basu, a Bangalore-based human rights lawyer explains, "So, imagine this as a blanket order and anytime a complaint is raised, this can be invoked to impose costs on them and the kind of charges right now on Patanjali Ayurved Limited, is that they disobeyed the order of the previous order."

"This time, the strictness with which the Supreme Court has ordered, and also the timeframe that they have given suggests they mean business."
Yashaswini Basu
0

This is An Interim Order: What Does It Mean? What Now?

Basu explains, "An interim verdict is when the respondent is given time to respond to the notice. This case has not been disposed of yet and there will be hearings at the end soon and depending on what the respondents produce; the court will arrive at a final order and then pass a decree."  

As per the interim order, Patanjali was given one weeks (before the next hearing on 23 April) 'to give them an opportunity to redeem their acts', and issue the public apology.

Furthermore, in the last hearing, the court had also asked the Union of India to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken by it to ensure that the order passed by the Supreme Court on 21 November 2023 was carried out.

"So then that decree will decide whether whoever is held guilty can go even to jail for this, if found guilty."
Yashaswini Basu

In the meantime, the top court has also ordered a stay on any continued advertisements using misleading claims.   

"They'll have to stop and abide by the notice where they have said that any sort of misleading advertisement where Patanjali product is an alternative to allopathic medicine has to be stopped," explains Basu.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What Makes False Claims and Misleading Advertisements Such a Big Deal?

Doctors, scientists, and health experts have, for years, claimed that these violations by Patanjali pose a larger threat to public health in the country.

"Medicines and drugs that claim to treat certain illnesses have to undergo certain rigorous scientific trials to generate evidence to back these claims," Dr Vikash R Keshri, a health policy expert, tells FIT.

He adds, "Even after having this scientific evidence, there are regulators that will review the evidence and justify which drugs should be approved and which not. These are the basic norms. "

The basic contention that health experts have with the company is that it has been advertising claims which have not been scientifically proven with robust evidence.

Speaking to FIT, Dr SP Kalantri, Director-Professor of medicine at MGIMS and medical superintendent of Kasturba Hospital, says that there are twin problems here.

"If we are only prescribing medicine on some anecdotal evidence or purely on faith, then not only are the patients risking their health because of our irrational practices but we are also substantially damaging (their health) because we are exposing these patients to the known or unknown risks of the products that we are prescribing," he says.

Dr Kalantri goes on to add, "The problem is that people are very gullible and often desperate for solutions."

He says, "In modern medicine we often say outright, 'Sorry, there is no cure for this', but then, what happens is that this alternative medicine is quick to spot this gap in the market and start offering miracles to these people."

"Because this company was able to slip past the regulators and allowed to operate in this manner for years, people had to go to court and ask the court to intervene."
Dr Vikash R Keshri, health policy expert

(FIT has reached out to Patanjali Ayurved and their legal representatives for a response over email. The article will be updated as and when they respond.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit

Published: 
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×