After Patanjali rebuke, Supreme Court targets makers, endorsers of deceptive food and health ads

  • A Supreme Court bench has asked advertisers to submit self-declaration forms confirming compliance with cable TV rules and advertising codes before airing ads

Krishna Yadav
First Published7 May 2024
Baba Ramdev appears before the Supreme Court in the misleading-advertisement case filed against Patanjali Ayurveda. Photo: ANI
Baba Ramdev appears before the Supreme Court in the misleading-advertisement case filed against Patanjali Ayurveda. Photo: ANI

New Delhi: After Patanjali, other advertisers and endorsers of deceptive ad campaigns related to food and health products have come under the Supreme Court's scanner.

On Tuesday, a bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice A. Amanullah said advertisers should submit self-declaration forms confirming their compliance with cable TV rules and advertising codes before airing ads. These declarations must be uploaded to the Broadcast Seva portal before the ads are aired, it said. 

It also warned that endorsers, including celebrities and influencers, would have equal liability for promoting deceptive products or services.

The court tasked the consumer affairs ministry with establishing within four weeks a system for advertisers to submit self-declarations for print-media ads. 

Also read: Patanjali pulled up by the SC: Truth matters in advertising

The court asked the ministry to file a fresh affidavit on the actions taken by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) against false or misleading ads, particularly related to food and health.

Patanjali case

The court ordered the removal from stores of Patanjali products that have had their licences cancelled by state authorities, noting that suspended licences should result in immediate halting of sales. The court also criticised a state licensing authority for failing to ensure the removal of such products from shelves.

Further, the apex court issued a notice to the president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dr R.V. Ashokan, regarding a contempt plea initiated by Patanjali for his allegedly disparaging comments about the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's rebuke of Patajnali stems from a plea the IMA filed against the company and its founders, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna, accusing them of running a smear campaign against modern medicine.

Also read: Patanjali’s credibility crisis: A knock-on effect on the booming Ayush market?

In previous hearings, the court had expanded the scope of the case to include misleading ads concerning ‘cures’ by other FMCG companies. It also directed various union ministries and state departments to examine violations of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, and the Consumer Protection Act, making these ministries party to the ongoing case.

IMA's lawsuit highlighted concerns about Patanjali spreading misinformation and disparaging modern medicine with unverified claims, citing various controversial statements by Ramdev, including those regarding covid vaccines and oxygen cylinders during the pandemic's second wave.

On 21 November 2023, the court warned Patanjali it would be fined 1 crore if it did not stop circulating misleading claims and ads about modern medicine. Despite the ruling, Patanjali issued a media statement the following day denying it had made misleading claims about its products.

On 27 February, the court issued a contempt notice to Ramdev and Balkrishna and barred Patanjali from promoting products with unsubstantiated claims of curing diseases such as heart conditions and asthma. It also banned the company and its officials from disparaging any medical system through any media.

On 19 March, Ramdev and Balkrishna were directed to appear in person before the court to respond to the contempt proceedings against them. On 16 April, the court gave them a week to tender a public apology for issuing misleading advertisements for health cures.

Also read: Patanjali misleading ads: Ramdev, Balkrishna issue second ‘bigger’ apology following Supreme Court stare-down

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