An inter-ministerial panel is likely to discuss on Tuesday a draft bill prepared by the consumer affairs ministry which seeks to punish celebrities who endorse products that are substandard or make misleading claims.
The stringent provisions in the bill include a fine of Rs 10 lakh and jail of up to two years for a first offence by celebrities. For subsequent offences, the draft bill provides a fine of Rs 50 lakh and maximum five years in jail.
The inter-ministerial panel is headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley and includes consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan, heath minister JP Nadda, transport minister Nitin Gakari, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, power minister Piyush Goyal and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Last August, the government had introduced Consumer Protection Bill 2015 and a parliamentary standing committee had vetted it and made recommendations in April, suggesting penalizing celebrities who promote misleading products.
An official said the consumer affairs ministry agrees to the principle of holding celebrities responsible for seriously misleading ads and adulterated products. The health ministry has given its opinion on the matter too, he said.
In April, Paswan had said the view that celebrities had a responsibility for the products they promote was unanimously being backed the central consumer protection council, a regulatory body which he chairs. Besides, a standing committee of Parliament is soon expected to submit a report spelling out its stand on the issue.
The matter caught national attention in April this year after India’s one-day cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni terminated his contract with real estate firm Amrapali, of which he was brand ambassador, following complaints from residents of an apartment project in Noida and a social-media campaign about incomplete work..
“If an advertisement says a person can get taller in six months using this particular product (sic). Is it possible? Celebrities should use a common sense approach,” the minister said.
Paswan said it is easy to be misled because of the influence popular celebrities have on fans and wilful endorsement without considering public interest is “bad”. The parliamentary panel is also planning to recommend fine and jail terms for such endorsers.