SC hears Ramdev’s apology with ‘a sack full of salt’, tells him he is bound by law | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

SC hears Ramdev’s apology with ‘a sack full of salt’, tells him he is bound by law

ByAbraham Thomas
Apr 02, 2024 01:21 PM IST

The court also pulled up the Centre and the Uttarakhand government for giving a “long rope” to the company

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday told Baba Ramdev that he is bound by law like any other common man and gave a final opportunity of one week to him to file his response to the contempt notice issued by the Court for endorsing Patanjali products, which violated a Court order restraining the company from issuing misleading advertisements.

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

The court also pulled up the Centre and the Uttarakhand government for giving a “long rope” to the company, which was let off with a warning for violating the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 over his claims of curing Covid-19..... and subsequent advertisements of Patanjali products when the law contemplates criminal action to be taken against the violators.

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Ramdev, who appeared in court in person, had failed to file a response despite being asked to do so on March 10. Senior advocate Balbir Singh appearing for Ramdev told the Court that the reply is ready but his client intended to first offer unconditional apology in person and was willing to abide all court directions.

Taking umbrage on the non-filing of the affidavit, the bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said, “Purpose of contempt is to make persons realise that majesty of court is above everything. But there are exceptions and you fall within that. We will not allow you to read a scrap of paper. We don’t have any material to look into the intention of your heart. You may use any flowery language saying apology is unconditional but we can’t give you benefit of doubt.”

Posting the matter for April 10, the bench said, “You are bound by law like any other common man. People of their stature and the kind of respect they command in society, there is onerous responsibility on them. Much is expected of them than the common public.”

The bench said that the contemnor (Ramdev) was issued a contempt notice as the advertisements of Patanjali were promoting him as an endorser of the products. “Your apology is mere lip service to the court. For you to go like a shot and hold a press conference a day after the company gave an undertaking to this court in November last year, shows you are complicit and you flouted our orders. Now to say you are sorry, we are taking it with a sack full of salt.”

The company represented by its managing director, Acharya Balakrishna, was present in the Court to answer contempt charges against him. Taking his affidavit, the court noted that although Balakrishna offered an unconditional apology, he blamed the company’s media department for not having knowledge of the undertaking given to the court while releasing controversial advertisements.

The bench said, “We are not being persuaded to accept your apology. It is mere lip service. What you have done amounts to gross violation of the undertaking given to the highest court of the land that should not be taken lightly. You should have made sure that the chain of command goes to the last person in your company and the undertaking is complied with in letter and spirit....We are not very happy with your apology.”

Also Read: Patanjali faces contempt, told by SC not to issue medical ads

Senior advocate Vipin Sanghi who appeared for the company said there has been a lapse on the company’s part from which there cannot be any escape. The court further noted that the affidavit of apology called the 1954 Act to be “archaic” as it failed to take into account the latest scientific research on the efficacy of Ayurveda. The bench told Sanghi that the company has not sought any amendment of the Act and till that happens, the Act is the law of the land.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta who was appearing for Centre told the court that time could be given for the contemnors to file their responses and the lawyers can sit and decide what is to be done as “upholding majesty of justice and our courts” should be the sole concern.

While agreeing to SG’s suggestion to allow time to contemnors to file response, the Court also picked holes in Centre’s approach in implementing the 1954 Act against the company and its products. The Court pointed out that during the Covid pandemic, when Patanjali claimed that its product Coronil is a cure for the disease, the Ayush ministry directed the company not to endorse it as a cure but said it could be a supplement. “What did you do to convey this to the public? In 2020-21, the production continued. Nothing could have moved without (the) Ministry being in the loop.”

The bench pulled up the Centre saying, “Covid monitoring was under the Centre. You had to take action against the state government and in one week register FIR.”

Also Read: Patanjali MD tenders apology over ads after Supreme Court rap

Again in 2021, the court noted that the Ministry wrote to the Uttarakhand licensing authority against a misleading advertisement by the company. In response, the company gave a response to the licensing authority. However, the state agency let off the company with a warning. The bench said, “The 1954 Act does not provide for warning and there is no provision for compounding the offence.”

Even the communication exchanged by Divya Pharmacy (maker of Patanjali products) and the state government was not produced by the Centre in its affidavit before the top court. The SG told the Court that he will look into this aspect and file a response.

The bench added the Uttarakhand licensing department as a party to the proceedings and sought response from both Centre and state department by the next date.

The orders of the Court were passed while hearing a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) objecting to the disparaging remarks made by Ramdev against modern medicine and the misleading advertisements claiming cure of several diseases in violation of the 1954 Act.

The court had on February 27 sought a response from the company for violating the undertaking given to the Court after it was shown advertisements issued by Patanjali breaching an undertaking. Later on March 19, the Court added Ramdev as a respondent and asked him to appear personally before the Court.

The order, said, “Having gone through the advertisements issued by the respondent (Patanjali) in the teeth of the undertaking given to this Court on November 21 and on noticing that the said advertisements reflect an endorsement thereof by Baba Ramdev, it is deemed appropriate to issue notice to show cause as to why the contempt proceedings be not initiated against him as this Court is prima facie of the opinion that he too has violated the provisions of Section 3 and 4 of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 read with Rule 6 of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Rules, 1955.”

Section 3 of this Act prohibits any advertisement claiming diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, cervical spondylitis, obesity, and heart diseases. Patanjali’s claim to eradicate asthma and cure diabetes was in direct contravention to the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules 1954.

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