Supreme Court refuses to accept apology tendered by Baba Ramdev, Patanjali MD in misleading ads case

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Supreme Court refuses to accept apology tendered by Baba Ramdev, Patanjali MD in misleading ads case
New Delhi: The SC was upset about an advertisement issued by Patanjali on Dec 4, 2023, after it had assured the court on Nov 21, 2023 that it would not make any “casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine”.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was not inclined to accept the apology tendered by Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna in response to notices asking to show cause as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them for allegedly flouting its directions. The apex court, however, gave them a last opportunity to file fresh responses.

The court was upset about an advertisement issued by the company on December 4, 2023, after it had assured the court on November 21, 2023 that it would not make any “casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine”.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, which pulled them up in the matter, finally agreed to give one more chance following Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s intervention.
The bench, which perused an affidavit filed by Balkrishna, took exception to it shifting the blame to the company’s media department. “We are not willing to accept such an explanation… Your media department is not a standalone island in your office is it…that it wouldn’t know what is happening in the court proceedings? And proceedings of such a serious nature. So your apology is not persuading this court really to accept it. We think it’s more of a lip service,” said Justice Kohli.

Hearing a plea by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) accusing the company of allegedly violating provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, and making statements critical of allopathy, the bench had on March 19 sought the personal presence of Acharya Balkrishna and Baba Ramdev before it. The duo had appeared before the court on Tuesday.
In the affidavit filed in response to the notice, Acharya Balkrishna said he “regrets that the advertisement in question which was meant to contain only general statements inadvertently included the offending sentences… The same was bona-fide and added in routine course by the media department of the…Company,” he said, adding “the personnel of the media department of the…Company were not cognizant of the order dated 21.11.2023.”

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Appearing for Balkrishna and the company, Senior Advocate Vipin Sanghi accepted that there was a mistake, but it did not convince the court. “But what did you do in November? What engages us is what you did and how you conducted yourself after you give an undertaking to this court in November. The whole thing follows from then — lapse by you, lapse by your company, and lapse by the third proposed contemnor (Baba Ramdev) who is the co-founder and promoter of the same brand. Conducting press conference the next day. You were all cognizant of the court proceedings. You can’t feign ignorance. That’s the point,” the court said.
Balkrishna’s affidavit had also said that the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act was passed when scientific evidence was lacking in Ayurveda research.

Justice Kohli also took exception to this and said, “Even today, one of the statements made by you in your so-called unqualified apology is that the Act itself is archaic. So shall we assume that every Act which is archaic shall not be implemented or enforced in law? An Act remains an enactment, which has to be enforced as a law of the land till it remains on the statute book”.

As Sanghi agreed, Justice Kohli added, “For you to then say that there is scientific research and and therefore… When there is an Act that governs the field, how can you violate it with such impunity? That all your advertisements are in the teeth of that Act. And to top it all and that’s adding insult to injury, that you had given an undertaking to this court, a solemn undertaking, and you violate it with impunity!”

“Therefore, be ready for the follow-up consequences is all we are saying. We are not willing to look at this apology which is perfunctory in every respect,” said Justice Kohli. Sanghi said the company’s motive was not commercial benefit, but Justice Kohli reminded that “you are a commercial organisation”.

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