‘Is your apology the same size as your ads?’: SC to Patanjali Ayurved

“When you issue an apology, it does not mean that we have to see it by a microscope,” a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said.
‘Is your apology the same size as your ads?’: SC to Patanjali Ayurved
Written by:

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, April 23, once again heavily came down upon Patanjali Ayurved questioning if their public apology in newspapers was as big as their misleading advertisements. “When you issue an apology, it does not mean that we have to see it by a microscope,” the court said and directed the company to submit the original newspaper clippings of the apology advertisements. A bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah was hearing a contempt petition filed against Patanjali’s founder and self-styled yoga guru Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved's Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna for their anti-modern medicine and COVID-19 vaccination drive advertisements, as well as Patanjali’s promotion of its products claiming that it would cure COVID-19.

On April 22, Patanjali Ayurved had reportedly published advertisements in several newspapers tendering apologies for the "mistake of publishing advertisements and holding a press conference even after our advocates made a statement in the apex court". Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Patanjali Ayurved, submitted at the court that the advertisement was published in 67 newspapers costing them Rs 10 lakhs. Responding to this, Justice Kohli wondered if it cost the same for the full page advertisements.

"Is the apology the same size as your advertisements?... Does it cost the same tens of lakhs of rupees for the full page advertisements you published?" Justice Kohli asked.

The bench then directed the company to submit the original advertisement clippings to the court and not the enlarged photocopies of the same. “Cut the actual newspaper clippings and keep them handy. For you to photocopy by enlarging, it may not impress us. We want to see the actual size of the ad. When you issue an apology, it does not mean that we have to see it through a microscope,” the court said and adjourned the case to April 30 for hearing.

Further, the apex court also impleaded the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as parties to the case, stating that the court would look into the larger issue of misleading advertisements made by fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) companies, and implementation of laws, including the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act. The court also clarified that this would not be limited to Patanjali Ayurved but against all FMCG companies. "We are not here to gun for a particular party, it is in the larger interest of consumers/ public on how they are being misled," the court added.

The court also directed the Union Government to submit an explanation about a letter the AYUSH Ministry issued to all state governments ordering them to refrain from taking action against the advertisement of AYUSH products as per Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. The letter had stated that after a meeting of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani Drugs Technical Advisory Board (ASUDTAB), it was recommended to omit Rule 170 and its related provisions in Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. 

Rule 170 was inserted into the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules in 2018 and was meant to control inappropriate advertisements of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani medicines. Under the rule, no ads related to these drugs shall be published without being cleared by the licensing authority of the state where the medicine is manufactured. The top court sought the Union government to explain why this rule was omitted. In addition, all the state governments have also been impleaded in the case.

In the last hearing held on April 16, both Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna appeared in person and tendered an “unqualified and unconditional apology” before the Supreme Court for promoting misleading advertisements. They also said that they are ready to apologise publicly to express remorse. With folded hands, Baba Ramdev said that he should have not made such public statements and would be more careful in the future. The Supreme Court had also criticised the Union government for remaining silent while Patanjali Ayurved brazenly promoted misleading advertisements about their products claiming that they can “cure Coronavirus fever”.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute