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Yoga Guru Ramdev, curious case of “Misleading Ads” and Supreme Court drubbing!

Amritanshu Raj

In a high-profile legal saga, Yoga guru Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna have issued a public apology for failing to comply with the Supreme Court’s directives regarding misleading advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved Limited. This case, rooted in the controversial launch of the drug Coronil during the COVID-19 pandemic, has drawn attention to responsible advertising practices. It also highlights the role of the judiciary in enforcing compliance with such practices.


The Context of the Case

The story begins during the Covid years when Patanjali, a well-known Ayurveda brand founded by Ramdev, introduced a drug named Coronil. Marketed as the “first evidence-based medicine for COVID-19,” Patanjali claimed that it had received certification from the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) swiftly challenged these assertions, labelling them a “blatant lie.”

The conflict escalated when a video of Ramdev surfaced, wherein he disparaged allopathy as a “stupid and bankrupt science”. The IMA responded with a legal notice, demanding an apology. Patanjali Yogpeeth, in its defense, contended that Ramdev had merely read aloud a forwarded WhatsApp message. They emphasized that he harbored no ill-will toward modern medicine.


The Misleading Advertisements

In August 2022, the IMA filed a petition against Patanjali. This action came after the company published an advertisement titled “Misconceptions Spread By Allopathy: Save Yourself And The Country From The Misconceptions Spread By Pharma And Medical Industry.” The ad claimed that Patanjali drugs had cured various ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, liver cirrhosis, arthritis, and asthma. The IMA accused Patanjali of perpetuating “continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation” alongside its efforts to promote its products.


Supreme Court’s Intervention

The Supreme Court stepped in, warning Patanjali against making false claims and threatening substantial fines. Patanjali’s counsel assured the court that they would henceforth comply with all laws and directives. However, the company failed to adhere to the court’s orders, leading to the current situation.


The Apology

In a bid to rectify their non-compliance, both Ramdev and Balkrishna issued a public apology. The advertisement, titled “Unconditional Public Apology,” occupied one-fourth of a newspaper page. It read:

“In wake of the ongoing matter before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (Writ Petition C. No. 645/2022), we, in our individual capacity as well as on behalf of the Company, unconditionally apologize for the non-compliance or disobedience of directions/orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”


“We unconditionally extend the apology for holding a meeting/press conference dated 22.11.2023. We earnestly apologize for the mistake made in publishing our advertisements and it is our whole-hearted commitment that such errors will not be repeated. We undertake to abide by directions and instructions of the Hon’ble Court with due care and utmost sincerity. We undertake to uphold the majesty of the court and comply with applicable laws and directions of the Hon’ble Court of law/relevant authorities. Sincerely, Patanjali Ayurved Limited, Acharya Balkrishna, Swami Ramdev, Haridwar, Uttarakhand,” the note added.

The apology extended to their actions during a meeting/press conference held on November 22, 2023. Patanjali committed to avoiding similar errors in the future and pledged to uphold the majesty of the court and comply with applicable laws.


Court’s Scrutiny

During the court proceedings, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice A. Amanullah questioned the prominence of the apology. They sought to ensure that it matched the font size and visibility of Patanjali’s original misleading advertisements. The court emphasized transparency and adherence to legal directives, rejecting any attempts to downplay the apology’s significance.


What Lies Ahead

The case will be heard again on April 30, with both Ramdev and Balkrishna summoned to appear in court. This legal battle underscores the importance of responsible advertising practices, especially concerning health-related products. It also reaffirms the judiciary’s role in safeguarding public interest and enforcing compliance with the law.

The case involving Patanjali Ayurved Limited and its contentious advertising practices represents a microcosm of broader societal tensions. These tensions exist between tradition and modernity, ethics and profit, and truth and misinformation. As legal proceedings unfold, stakeholders across the spectrum must reflect on the underlying principles at stake. They should strive to uphold the values of integrity, accountability, and transparency. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment to ethical conduct can we navigate the complexities of the modern age and safeguard the well-being of society at large.

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