Don’t denigrate other medical systems, SC to Ramdev, says he is not ‘ignorant’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Don’t denigrate other medical systems, SC to Ramdev, says he is not ‘ignorant’

Apr 16, 2024 05:45 PM IST

SC asked Ramdev why he and Patanjali would run down any other form of medicine in a country that has a rich and diverse medical heritage

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday interrogated yoga guru and entrepreneur Ramdev and Patanjali’s managing director Acharya Balkrishna for disobeying court orders that forbade Patanjali Ayurved from running misleading advertisements on health cures and sternly warned them against undermining other medical practices, even as the two offered to issue public apology to wriggle out of the contempt charge.

The Supreme Court of India. (ANI file photo.)
The Supreme Court of India. (ANI file photo.)

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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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.

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

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 allopathy, 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.

“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.

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.

The court, however, 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 to redeem 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, also popularly known as allopathy in India, 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.

Also Read: ‘Apology not accepted’: SC raps Patanjali, Uttarakhand govt over misleading ads

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.

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 Apri 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 on April 10 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. It directed the state licensing officers and district ayurvedic officers posted in the state since 2018 (since when complaints against Patanjali are pending) to explain their inaction within two weeks.

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