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Is your apology as big as your advertisements? SC asks Patanjali

"Does it cost the same tens of lakhs of rupees for the full-page advertisements you published? We are wondering," Justice Kohli asked


New Delhi: Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Photo: PTI)

Bhavini Mishra New Delhi

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"Is the apology the same size as your advertisements?" the Supreme Court asked Patanjali Ayurved on Tuesday in the hearing against the company over the publication of misleading advertisements.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Patanjali Ayurved, told the court that their public apology cost them 'tens of lakhs', and was published in 67 newspapers.

"Does it cost the same tens of lakhs of rupees for the full-page advertisements you published? We are wondering," Justice Kohli asked.

The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah adjourned the hearing until April 30 and asked Patanjali's lawyers to bring to them the copy of the apology advertisements.

"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 by a microscope," Justice Kohli said.

The court also stressed that its interest was not just Patanjali but all those Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs)/drugs companies which mislead consumers through their advertisements.

"We are of the opinion that the issue relating to implementation of the relevant provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act and the Rules, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Rules, and the Consumer Protection Act and the relevant Rules needs closer examination in the light of the grievances raised by the petitioner... not just limited to the respondents before this court but to all similarly situated/placed FMCGs who have... misleading advertisements, and (are) taking the public for a ride... affecting the health of babies, school-going children, and senior citizens who have been consuming products on the basis of the said misrepresentation," the court said.

The court also came down on the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which is the petitioner in the case, regarding complaints of unethical practices by allopathic doctors.

"While the petitioner is pointing fingers at the respondent, four other fingers are also pointing at you... We are of the opinion that the petitioner (IMA) also needs to put its house in order. There are several complaints that are made with regard to alleged unethical acts of members of the petitioner-Association who prescribe medicines to the patients in the line of treatment," the court said.

Ayush Ministry in Line of Fire

During the hearing, the Supreme Court also asked the Union Government why a letter was issued to State/UT licensing authorities asking them not to take action against ads related to Ayurvedic and Ayush products under Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

The bench referred to the letter of August 29, 2023, issued by the Ministry of Ayush to all State/UT Licensing Authorities and Drug Controllers of AYUSH regarding omission of Rule 170 (and related provisions) of the 1945 Rules.

Rule 170 prohibits advertisements of Ayurvedic, Siddha, or Unani drugs without licensing authorities' approval.

Justice Amanullah asked the Union's counsel, "Is it within your jurisdiction or power to say that the law is there but don't act... Till the time it is taken to its logical conclusion? Can you do that? Is it not arbitrary and a colorable exercise? Then you are also liable to be proceeded against as abettor to the crime, whoever has made that statement."

He also cautioned the Union to come prepared on May 7, saying that the Union and the Ministry of Ayush would be the "focus" of that day.

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First Published: Apr 23 2024 | 8:18 PM IST

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