Have Social Media Intermediaries Taken Down Ads Of Medicines For Which Licenses Were Suspended? Supreme Court Asks Patanjali

Debby Jain

9 July 2024 2:42 PM GMT

  • Have Social Media Intermediaries Taken Down Ads Of Medicines For Which Licenses Were Suspended? Supreme Court Asks Patanjali

    During the hearing of the misleading ads case pending against it, the Supreme Court today asked Patanjali whether pursuant to its notice, intermediaries and social-media platforms have taken down ads relating to the 14 Ayurvedic medicines for which licenses were suspended by Uttarakhand State Licensing Authorities.The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Sandeep Mehta was dealing with an...

    During the hearing of the misleading ads case pending against it, the Supreme Court today asked Patanjali whether pursuant to its notice, intermediaries and social-media platforms have taken down ads relating to the 14 Ayurvedic medicines for which licenses were suspended by Uttarakhand State Licensing Authorities.

    The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Sandeep Mehta was dealing with an affidavit filed by Patanjali on May 17, stating that it had taken steps with regard to the above.

    As per the affidavit, the sale of 14 Ayurvedic medicines (mentioned in para 3 thereof) has been stopped and notices have been issued by Patanjali to its 5606 exclusive/franchise stores for removal/withdrawal of the said medicines/formulations that were suspended by the State Drug Licensing Authority, Dehradun, Uttarakhand vide order dated 15.04.2024.

    It further stated that the media platforms associated with Patanjali and those especially engaged by it in the print and electronic media have been instructed to stop broadcasting any advertisement in any form in relation to the aforesaid medicines. Alongside, intimation emails have been sent to e-commerce partners and social-media companies for removal/withdrawal of the medicines/ads.

    On going through the same, the court enquired from Patanjali whether ads that were already there on digital platforms had been taken down. "What have they done after request was made to the intermediaries? Have they removed them? You made a request, what did they do?", Justice Kohli asked.

    As no clear response was forthcoming from the parties, the matter was adjourned. The court directed Patanjali to file an affidavit stating inter-alia as to whether request made to the social-media intermediaries has been acceded to and ads of the 14 Ayurvedic medicines/formulations have been removed/withdrawn.

    The affidavit shall be filed by Patanjali in 2 weeks.

    To recap, IMA had filed the case against Patanjali Ayurved for its "misleading" claims and "disparaging" advertisements against the Allopathic system of medicines. Subsequently, Patanjali had given an undertaking to the court that no such statements would be made in future. However, the misleading ads continued, leading the court to initiate contempt proceedings against Patanjali, its MD Acharya Balkrishna and co-founder Baba Ramdev for continuing to publish misleading medical advertisements in breach of the court undertaking.

    In the proceedings that followed, Patanjali, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna tendered apologies to the court, but the same were rejected. After the court's rap, Patanjali published an apology in newspapers giving its own name alongside that of Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna.

    During a hearing in April 2024, the Court also turned the spotlight on IMA asking it to "set its house in order" by taking action on complaints regarding the unethical practices of its members. Following that, IMA President-Dr RV Asokan gave a press interview, where he reportedly slammed the Supreme Court's observations. In response, Patanjali filed an application in the pending proceedings seeking action against Dr Asokan for his "contemptuous" remarks against the Court. On May 7, the Court issued notice on that application to the IMA President.

    On the last of hearing (May 14), the court expressed dissatisfaction with the apology furnished by Dr Asokan for his remarks in the media interview. The IMA President conveyed an unconditional apology to the bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah (which was then hearing the matter). However, the bench was not happy with his conduct.

    Since the court slammed State Licensing Authorities (particularly of Uttarakhand) for inaction on their part, certain affidavits had been filed, while others remained to be placed before the court. Time was given to do the needful, with the bench recording that it would consider Uttarakhand's affidavit on the next date.

    Appearance: Senior Advocates PS Patwalia (for IMA), Mukul Rohatgi (for Patanjali), Balbir Singh (for Baba Ramdev), Arvind Datar (for an applicant), Shyam Divan (for an applicant), Siddharth Dave (for an applicant) and Kapil Sibal (for applicant-Internet and Mobile Association of India)

    Case Title: Indian Medical Association v. Union of India | W.P.(C) No. 645/2022

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