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Business News/ Companies / News/  Patanjali in court: SC pulls up company, warns FMCG firms against misleading ads

Patanjali in court: SC pulls up company, warns FMCG firms against misleading ads

• Supreme Court asks Ramdev to show if the apology issued in publications is the same size as that of the ad• Court widens scope of case to include Centre, FMCG firms and IMA

Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (PTI Photo)Premium
Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expanded the case of misleading advertisements against yoga guru Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved, directing Union ministries and authorities to take action against fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies indulging in false campaigns.

The bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice A. Amanullah asked the Centre to submit an affidavit explaining the steps taken against companies that have been issuing misleading health cure advertisements since 2018.

The court also ordered the consumer affairs, information and broadcasting, and IT ministries to examine the violations of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, and the Consumer Protection Act. It has directed the ministries to become parties in the ongoing case against Ramdev initiated by the Indian Medical Association regarding misleading health cures.

Also Read: Patanjali ads case: SC asks Ramdev, Balkrishna to issue public apology

The top court also sought an explanation from the Centre regarding a letter issued by the Ayush ministry asking states to refrain from taking action against the advertisement of Ayush products as per Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

The court noted that FMCG firms were publishing misleading ads, affecting the public, especially children and the elderly. It emphasized that the case was of public interest and its scope should extend beyond one company.

“Now we are looking at everything… we are looking at children, babies, women, and no one can be taken for a ride and the Union government must wake up to this," the SC observed.

The court adjourned the case till 30 April.

Ramdev's apology

Appearing for Ramdev, advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the court that Patanjali had issued a public apology via 61 publications. The court asked Patanjali to present the actual newspaper clippings on record on the next day of hearing.

The court asked the company if the apology was the same size as the advertisements the company had published in newspapers. 

"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.

IMA criticized

The court also came down heavily on the petitioner, the Indian Medical Association, stating that its members also engage in recommending unnecessary and expensive medicines. It pointed out to several complaints alleging unethical conduct of the IMA.

“Put your house in order before pointing fingers at others," the court told IMA.

Also Read: Advertisements crafted by AI needn’t be short of consumer insights

Patanjali ads case so far

On 16 April, the court had given Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna of Patanjali a week to tender a public apology for issuing misleading advertisements for health cures.

The top court was hearing a lawsuit filed by the IIMA, which had urged action against Patanjali for advertisements that promoted the Ayush treatment system while undermining modern, evidence-based medicine.

The plea had highlighted concerns about the systematic spread of misinformation disparaging modern medicine and argued that Patanjali's unverified claims violated drugs & remedies and consumer protection acts.

It also cited controversial statements by Ramdev, including derogatory remarks about modern medicine and unfounded claims about covid-19 vaccines and oxygen cylinders during the pandemic's second wave.

Also Read: Crackdown on IAS coaching centres: No candidate details in ads without consent

On 21 November, the court warned Patanjali that a fine of 1 crore could be imposed if it did not stop circulating misleading claims and advertisements against modern medicine.

Despite the court's ruling, Patanjali issued a media statement the following day denying any misleading claims about its products.

On 27 February this year, the court issued a contempt notice to Ramdev and Balkrishna for persisting in distributing misleading health cure advertisements, barring Patanjali from promoting products with unsubstantiated claims of curing diseases like heart conditions and asthma.

It also prohibited Patanjali and its officials from disparaging any medical system in any form of media. On 19 March, they were directed to personally appear before the court to respond to the contempt proceedings for continuing to issue misleading health cure advertisements.

On 2 April, the court dismissed an apology affidavit submitted in response to the contempt notice. The court also criticized the central and state authorities for their lack of action in the matter.



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Krishna Yadav
Krishna, a lawyer turned journalist, is a key member of Mint's corporate team. He covers major legal battles in Delhi's courtrooms, with a focus on finance, markets, and policy. Additionally, he crafts easy-to-understand explainers for complex stories and holds a PG Diploma from the renowned Asian College of Journalism.
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Published: 23 Apr 2024, 11:39 AM IST
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