Patanjali Faces Legal Heat: Supreme Court Issues Contempt Notice Over Misleading Ads

Patanjali Ayurveda, Supreme Court

The Supreme Court delivered a scathing rebuke to Patanjali Ayurved on Tuesday (February 27) for persisting in disseminating deceptive advertisements regarding medicinal cures, despite giving assurances to the Court in November of the previous year that such advertisement would cease immidiatly.

Observing prima facie evidence of the Patanjali Ayurveda breach of its undertaking, the Court issued a notice to Patanjali Ayurved and Acharya Balakrishna (Managing Director of Patanjali) to explain why action for contempt of court should not be taken against them.

Additionally, the Court prohibited Patanjali Ayurved from advertising or branding products intended to address diseases/disorders specified in the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 in the interim. Patanjali Ayurved was also cautioned against making derogatory statements about any system of medicine. The Court scheduled the matter for further review in two weeks.

The Bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah was hearing a petition by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) seeking to curb negative advertisements and a “smear campaign” against the vaccination drive and modern medicines.

The Court also sought clarification from the Union Government regarding its actions under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 regarding Patanjali’s advertisements.

Expressing frustration, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah criticized the delay in enforcing the Act’s provisions, stating, “The entire country is taken for a ride! You wait for two years when the Act says this (misleading advertisements) is prohibited.” The Union’s representative acknowledged the unacceptability of misleading advertisements but indicated that it falls to the states to take action under the Act. The Union was instructed to submit an affidavit detailing its actions.

During the morning session, Justice Amanullah strongly admonished Patanjali for yet another misleading advertisement. He warned, “Today, I am going to pass a really strict order. You flout this order!”

Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, representing the Indian Medical Association, highlighted that Patanjali had made misleading claims immediately after the Supreme Court’s order on November 21, 2023. He cited advertisements asserting permanent cures for diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and glaucoma, among others, published in ‘The Hindu’ daily on December 4, 2023, and YouTube links of a press conference. Patwalia noted that many of these ailments are listed in the Schedule to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act.

The bench questioned Patanjali Ayurved’s counsel Senior Advocate Vipin Sanghi about the claim of permanent relief and statements regarding other systems of medicine. It noted that the previous order had prohibited comments against other medicinal systems.

Justice Amanullah indicated a prima facie violation of the Supreme Court’s order and suggested issuing notice to Acharya Balakrishna, whose images appeared in the advertisements. The bench contemplated a complete ban on advertisements, but Sanghi argued against it, citing the company’s diverse products. Consequently, the Court restricted the advertisement ban to products related to diseases specified under the Act.

The writ petition filed by the IMA raised concerns about the dissemination of misinformation disparaging allopathy and modern medicine by Patanjali. It cited instances of misleading advertisements and derogatory statements made by Patanjali, regarding allopathy and COVID-19 vaccines.

The Court clarified that it sought to address the issue of misleading medical advertisements rather than engage in an “Allopathy v. Ayurveda” debate.

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About the Author: Ashish Sinha

-Ashish Kumar Sinha -Editor Legally Speaking -Ram Nath Goenka awardee - 14 Years of Experience in Media - Covering Courts Since 2008