After Supreme Court rap, Patanjali offers a public apology | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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After Supreme Court rap, Patanjali offers a public apology

Apr 17, 2024 05:37 AM IST

Supreme Court warned Ramdev and Balkrishna of Patanjali for disobeying court orders on misleading health cure ads, demands suitable steps in a week.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned yoga guru and entrepreneur Ramdev and Patanjali’s managing director Balkrishna on disobeying court orders that forbade Patanjali Ayurved from running misleading advertisements on health cures and sternly warned them against undermining other medical practices. The court pointed out that the two were “not so naive” that they had simply made a mistake, after they offered to issue a public apology to avoid a contempt charge.

Yoga guru and brand ambassador Patanjali Ayurved Baba Ramdev speaks to the media as he leaves from the Supreme Court after attending an hearing relating to alleged misleading advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved, in New Delhi on Tuesday (ANI)
Yoga guru and brand ambassador Patanjali Ayurved Baba Ramdev speaks to the media as he leaves from the Supreme Court after attending an hearing relating to alleged misleading advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved, in New Delhi on Tuesday (ANI)

While the top court gave Ramdev and Balkrishna a week to take suitable steps “to redeem themselves” and demonstrate their remorse, it directly interacted with the two, telling them their plea of innocence or inadvertence cannot be accepted right away after they chose to flout court orders despite previous judicial warnings.

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The court, however, told them that it was still to make up its mind on whether to accept their apology or not.

Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah asked pointed questions as Ramdev and Balkrishna appeared in person to answer charges of contempt of court, stemming from a series of advertisements that claimed Patanjali products could cure various diseases -- a clear violation of the top court’s earlier directives and an undertaking given by Patanjali in this regard.

Patanjali advertisements case: Ramdev, Balkrishna apologise, slammed by Supreme Court | 5 quotes

As soon as the proceedings commenced, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing the leaders of the Patanjali Ayurved empire, offered to issue a public apology but the bench called upon the two for an interaction.

It began by asking Ramdev why he and Patanjali would run down any other form of medicine in a country that has a rich and diverse medical heritage, dating back thousands of years, with the practice of multiple systems of medicine that have developed and evolved over centuries. The court interacted with Ramdev and Balkrishna in Hindi.

“Why would you say any other system is not good?” it asked Ramdev, who started by expressing his “unqualified and unconditional apology” for his conduct that riled the court.

Ramdev said that he has never sought to denigrate any other form of medicine, including modern medicine -- it is often referred to as allopathy in India -- and that a press conference, which was conducted in November last year, a day after Patanjali rendered its assurance to the court against issuing any misleading advertisement of contentious statements, aimed at bringing clinical evidence and real-life testimonies to the notice of the people.

Read Here | Don’t denigrate other medical systems, SC to Ramdev, says he is not ‘ignorant’

“Whatever you do, it has to be within the four corners of the law... You cannot denigrate or shoot down other systems to promote your system. We won’t allow that. You are before us because you have apparently committed contempt...There are incurable diseases, and no advertisements are allowed in respect of them. Law is equal for everyone. And if you think your system has a cure, prove it before the government panel first,” the bench told him.

The courtroom was packed as Ramdev, clad in his traditional saffron attire, and Balkrishna, listened carefully, occasionally nodding in acknowledgment. The proceedings were marked by a grave tone as the judges underscored the seriousness of the contempt charges and the responsibility that Ramdev and Balkrishna bear towards public health.

“This country and its people have hopes from you. You should not have done all this... You cannot degrade allopathy. Don’t denigrate any other system,” it said.

Cutting a sorry figure, Ramdev replied that he accepts his mistake and undertakes to remain mindful in future. “The court is right. I will be extremely careful in future so that there is no defiance of a court order, or my position becomes delicate because of my mistakes. It happened because of our zealousness to tell the world about our discoveries and research. But we should have been more careful,” he added.

Balakrishna supported this stance, highlighting their respect for the court’s concerns and their commitment to more responsible advertising in the future.

Analysis: Legally Speaking | The suits against Patanjali prove that strict action alone protects public health

The court told them that it was still to make up its mind on whether to accept their apology or not. “At times, it does not appear that the apology is from the heart when you try to justify what you did. There has been a violation of not one but three court orders. Today, we are not saying ‘we condone you’. We are still deciding whether to accept your apology. You cannot be considered as ignorant as you could defy three court orders,” the bench told them.

Turning to Rohatgi, the bench said that Ramdev and Balkrishna were free to take measures that they deem appropriate for redeeming themselves, adding the court would take up the matter against on April 27.

“Personality does not matter...You are part of the system. You and I understand but there are some people who don’t. Institutions matter, personalities don’t. The majesty of the institution and the Constitution are supreme...that is above us and that is important,” it told Rohatgi, who assured the bench that he would advise the two as an officer of the court.

In a series of hearings on the Indian Medical Association’s petition complaining against Ramdev’s contentious comments about modern medicine and allegedly misleading advertisements about Patanjali products, the Supreme Court expressed grave concern and emphasised the need for responsible discourse, especially during a pandemic like Covid-19.

The court admonished Patanjali for spreading misinformation that could undermine public trust in the health care system and had recorded an undertaking by the company in November 2023 that it would stop running any misleading advertisements and issuing disparaging statements against modern or any other form of medicine.

Read Here: Patanjali sent notices, but not under key 1954 law

However, the medical association came back to the bench with a video clip of a press conference held by Ramdev and Patanjali advertisements in national media merely a day after their undertaking in the court on November 21. Additionally, the association produced a series of advertisements branding Patanjali products as cure for several ailments, including hypertension and diabetes.

Irked by the contravention of its order and its own assurance, the court by its subsequent orders of February 27, March 19, April 2 and April 10 called Ramdev and Balkrishna in person, asking them to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court. They have since filed a pair of apology affidavits each, but the court has not found them satisfactory and bonafide.

On April 10, the bench lambasted Ramdev and Balkrishna, refusing to accept their unconditional apology for issuing misleading advertisements and saying the judges did not want to be “so generous” after the duo were caught on the wrong foot with their “back to the wall”. On the day, it also came down heavily on the Uttarakhand government, saying the authorities kept their “eyes shut” by not cracking down on the company for violating advertising rules by making false claims about curing diseases such as diabetes and asthma.

The court also reproached the Uttarakhand officials for acting “in cahoots” and failing to register cases against Patanjali for issuing advertisements promising cure for lifestyle and other specified ailments prohibited under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectional Advertisements) Act 1954, Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Rules 1955, and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945.

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