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Not off the hook yet: Supreme Court to Patanjali in misleading ad case

Though Ramdev and Balkrishna tendered apologies for their actions, the SC Bench hinted that their apology wasn't sufficient to absolve them of responsibility

Patanjali Co-founder Baba Ramdev at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Ramdev had held a press conference after the court’s last hearing on November 21, 2023, saying remedies for blood pressure were “lies spread by allopathy’’  | Photo: PTI

Patanjali Co-founder Baba Ramdev at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Ramdev had held a press conference after the court’s last hearing on November 21, 2023, saying remedies for blood pressure were “lies spread by allopathy’’ | Photo: PTI

Abhijeet Kumar New Delhi

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directly engaged with Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna, the promoters of Patanjali Ayurved, to assess the sincerity of their apology for running misleading advertisements that criticised modern medicine, as per media reports.

Reportedly, although Ramdev and Balkrishna tendered apologies for their actions, the Bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah hinted that their apology wasn't sufficient to absolve them of responsibility.

“We are not saying we will forgive you. We cannot be blind to your earlier history, we will think about your apology. You are not so innocent that you were completely unaware of what was going on in Court),” Justice Kohli said. “At this moment, we are not saying they're off the hook."

As per a Live Law report, Patanjali Ltd has also agreed to issue a public apology in this regard.

The Court postponed the proceedings until April 23, having received a commitment from Patanjali and its representatives to take voluntary measures to demonstrate their sincerity and goodwill.

No sincerity in apology: SC to Ramdev


The Supreme Court, last week, rejected the “unconditional and unqualified apology” offered by Patanjali Ayurved co-founder Baba Ramdev and his close aide Acharya Balkrishna in connection with the company’s misleading advertisements, asserting that the court does not want to be “so generous in this case.”

The apex court said the apology by Ramdev and Balkrishna, the Managing Director of Patanjali Ayurved, was merely on paper and warned that they should be ready to face penal action for violation of the undertaking.

The case against Patanjali


The case was brought before the Bench by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which accused Patanjali and its founders of conducting a smear campaign against the COVID-19 vaccination effort and modern medicine.

In prior hearings, the Supreme Court had reprimanded Patanjali Ayurved, as well as Ramdev and Balkrishna, for their casual apologies in response to being reprimanded for failing to cease misleading advertisements.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Ramdev and Balkrishna, reiterated that his clients were extending an unconditional apology. "We offer our sincere apologies," Rohatgi affirmed.

SC demands Ramdev-Balkrishna presence in Court


The Court had expressed a desire to address Ramdev and Balkrishna directly, as per previous orders, during their presence in court.

Last week, the Supreme Court strongly warned the Uttarakhand drug licensing authority for its inaction against Patanjali Ayurved's dissemination of misleading advertisements.

The same Bench had criticised state licensing officials for delaying action on complaints against Divya Pharmacy. Justice Kohli accused the licensing authority of colluding with Patanjali and failing to take any substantive action.

Questions over ‘sincerity’ of apologies


Rejecting the affidavits filed by Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved's managing director Balkrishna, which tendered unconditional apologies for publishing misleading advertisements, the Supreme Court questioned the sincerity of the apologies, suggesting they were made only after being caught.

In a November 2023 ruling, the Supreme Court had threatened to impose fines of Rs 1 crore for each false claim in Patanjali advertisements asserting their products could cure diseases. The Court also instructed Patanjali to refrain from publishing false advertisements in the future.

Subsequently, the Court temporarily banned such advertisements and issued contempt of court notices to the company and Balkrishna after Patanjali failed to cease publication.

On March 19, the Court ordered Ramdev and Balkrishna to personally appear before it after they failed to submit replies.

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First Published: Apr 16 2024 | 1:17 PM IST

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