Supreme Court Issues Contempt Notice To Patanjali Ayurved & Its MD For Misleading Ads On Medicinal Cures

Update: 2024-02-27 10:04 GMT
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday (February 27) came down heavily on Patanjali Ayurved for continuing to publish misleading advertisements regarding medicinal cures, despite making an assurance to the Court earlier in November last year that no such statements would be made.Prima facie observing that the company has violated the undertaking, the Court issued notice to Patanjali Ayurved and...

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday (February 27) came down heavily on Patanjali Ayurved for continuing to publish misleading advertisements regarding medicinal cures, despite making an assurance to the Court earlier in November last year that no such statements would be made.

Prima facie observing that the company has violated the undertaking, the Court issued notice to Patanjali Ayurved and Acharya Balakrishna (Managing Director of Patanjali) to show cause why action should not be taken against them for the contempt of court.

The Court also restrained Patanjali Ayurved from advertising or branding its products which are meant to address the diseases/disorders specified in the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 in the meantime.

The Court also cautioned Patanjali Ayurved from making any statement adverse to any system of medicine. The matter will be taken after two weeks.

The Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah was hearing a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association seeking to control the "smear campaign" and negative advertisements against the vaccination drive and modern medicines.

The Court also asked the Union Government what action has been taken from its end under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 in respect of the advertisements of Patanjali.

"The entire country is taken for a ride! You wait for two years when the Acts says this(misleading advertisements) is prohibited," Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah told Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj. The Union's law officer, while agreeing that misleading advertisements cannot be accepted, stated that it is for the concerned States to take action under the Act. The Union has been asked to file an affidavit explaining the steps it has taken.

When the case was taken in the morning session, Justice Amanullah strongly rebuked Patanjali for yet another advertisement that contained misleading claims. Justice Amanullah, without mincing any words, said: “Today, I am going to pass really strict order. You flout this order!”

“You had the courage and guts to come up with this advertisement after the order of this Court! And then you come up with this advertisement. Permanent relief, what do you mean by permanent relief? Is it a cure?...we are going to pass a very, very strict order. You are tempting the Court.” Judge added. Later, the matter was passed over.

At 2 PM, when the matter was taken again, Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, appearing for the Indian Medical Association, stated that the very next day after the Supreme Court passed the order on November 21, 2023, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna of Patanjali called for a press conference and made misleading claims again. He added that advertisements were published claiming that Patanjali Ayurved has permanent cures for diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, glaucoma etc. References were made to an advertisement carried by 'The Hindu' daily on December 4, 2023 and the YouTube links of the press conference. Patwalia mentioned that many of these ailments are specifically listed in the Schedule to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act.

"How can you claim permanent relief?", the bench asked Patanjali Ayurved's counsel Senior Advocate Vipin Sanghi. The bench also questioned the counsel regarding the statements made by Patanjali Ayurved regarding other systems of medicines like Allopathy and pointed out that the previous order had restrained comments against other medicinal systems.

Justice Amanullah said that there was a prima facie flouting of the Supreme Court's order and notices should be issued to Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna whose pictures were shown in the advertisements.

"So far, Baba Ramdev is concerned, he is a sanyasi," Sanghi said.

"We are not bothered by that, by who he is...there is a prima facie flouting," Justice Amanullah said. Patwalia described Sanghi's statement as "outrageous".

"They were aware of the order and prima facie they are flouting it," Justice Kohli weighed in.

The bench was proposing to place a complete ban on advertisements. However, Sanghi said that the company is manufacturing products like toothpaste also and a complete ban will affect its commercial operations. Following that, the Court specified that the advertisement ban would apply to products related to diseases specified under the Act.

To provide a brief background, the IMA sought to direct the Centre, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), and the CCPA (Central Consumer Protection Authority of India) to take action against such advertisements and campaigns to promote the Ayush system by disparaging the Allopathic system.

Back in August 2022, the Supreme Court's Bench led by CJI Ramana issued notice to the above authorities, including Patanjali Ayurved Ltd (the company co-founded by Baba Ramdev.).

Previously, on November 21, 2023, the Court reprimanded Patanjali Ayurved for continuing to publish misleading claims and advertisements against modern systems of medicine. Justice Amanullah went on to issue a stern warning of imposing a cost of Rs 1 Crore in case such advertisements are continued.

All such false and misleading advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved have to stop immediately. The Court will take any such infraction very seriously, and the Court will also consider imposing costs to the extent of Rs. 1 crores on every product regarding which a false claim is made that it can “cure” a particular disease,” Justice Amanullah orally said

Following this, the counsel for Patanjali Ayurved assured that they would not publish any such advertisements in the future and would also ensure that casual statements are not made in the Press. The Court recorded the undertaking in its order.

Contents Of The Writ Petition

The writ petition was filed by the IMA, raising concerns over what they term a "continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation" regarding allopathy and the modern system of medicine. The petition has also asserted that Patanjali's misleading advertisements disparage allopathy and make false claims about curing certain diseases.


The IMA contended that while every commercial entity has the right to promote its products, the unverified claims made by Patanjali are in direct violation of laws such as the Drugs & Other Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Additionally, the petition highlighted previous instances where Swami Ramdev, associated with Patanjali, made controversial statements, including calling allopathy a "stupid and bankrupt science" and making unfounded claims about the deaths of people due to allopathic medicines during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IMA further accused Patanjali of spreading false rumors about COVID-19 vaccines and contributing to vaccine hesitancy. Swami Ramdev's alleged mockery and derision of citizens searching for oxygen cylinders during the second wave are also cited in the petition.

The petition emphasized that despite the Ministry of AYUSH signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ASCI for monitoring misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs, Patanjali has continued its alleged disregard for the law, violating the mandate with impunity.

It may be noted that during the earlier proceedings, the Court clarified that it did not wish to make the issue an "Allopathy v. Ayurveda" debate but wanted to find a real solution to the problem of misleading medical advertisements.

Case Title : INDIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION vs. UNION OF INDIA| W.P.(C) No. 000645 - / 2022

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