In a strong rebuke, the Supreme Court of India has directed Patanjali Ayurveda, co-founded by Baba Ramdev, to “stop misleading advertisements” and cautioned that it will impose a ₹1 crore cost on every product making false claims of being a cure for particular diseases. The apex court’s strict stance came during the hearing of petitions filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), expressing concerns about the company’s alleged dissemination of misleading information.
The bench, comprising Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Prashant Kumar Mishra, conveyed their disapproval of false claims made by Patanjali Ayurveda and emphasized the need for immediate cessation of such misleading advertisements. “All such false and misleading advertisements of Patanjali Ayurveda have to stop immediately,” Justice Amanullah stated. The court’s unequivocal warning underscores the gravity of the issue and its commitment to curbing misleading medical advertisements.
The Supreme Court further articulated that it would consider imposing a significant financial penalty of ₹1 crore on each product associated with false claims of curing specific diseases. This stringent measure is intended to deter companies from engaging in deceptive advertising practices that may mislead consumers and compromise public health.
The bench clarified that its objective is not to fuel a contentious debate between allopathy and Ayurveda but rather to address the pressing issue of misleading medical advertisements. During the hearing, the court expressed its earnest desire to find a practical solution to the problem and urged the Union Government to play a proactive role in addressing the issue.
While examining the matter seriously, the bench directed the Union Government to come up with viable recommendations after thorough consultations. The court expects the government to devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the menace of misleading medical advertisements and protect the interests of the public. The matter is scheduled for further consideration on February 5, 2024.
The Indian Medical Association, in its petition, had raised concerns about Patanjali’s role in spreading false rumors about COVID-19 vaccines, contributing to vaccine hesitancy. Additionally, the petition cited instances of alleged mockery and derision by Swami Ramdev, co-founder of Patanjali, directed at citizens seeking oxygen cylinders during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swami Ramdev’s controversial comments extended beyond the pandemic, with statements in February suggesting an increase in cancer cases in India post-COVID-19. Ramdev, during a yoga camp in Goa, claimed, “Cancer has increased a lot. The cases of this disease have gone up after the COVID-19 pandemic. People have lost their eyesight, their sense of hearing….” These remarks led to criminal cases being filed against him in various states.
In response to the legal proceedings, Ramdev filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking protection. The court’s recent warning and commitment to imposing significant costs on false cure claims underscore its determination to address the issue of misleading medical advertisements and uphold the integrity of public health information.
As the legal proceedings unfold, the Supreme Court’s intervention serves as a pivotal step in holding companies accountable for the accuracy of their health-related claims. The stringent measures contemplated by the court aim to create a deterrent against deceptive advertising practices, safeguarding the public from potentially harmful misinformation. The court’s emphasis on collaboration with the government reflects a holistic approach to addressing the challenges posed by misleading medical advertisements, ensuring a balanced and informed public discourse on health matters.