Misleading advertisements: Supreme Court turns heat on IMA; poses questions on alleged unethical conduct of its members : The Tribune India

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Misleading advertisements: Supreme Court turns heat on IMA; poses questions on alleged unethical conduct of its members

A Bench led by Justice Hima Kohli expands scope of hearing against Patanjali Ayurved; makes Consumer Affairs, I&B and IT Ministry, NMC parties; questions FMCGs for taking consumers for ride

Misleading advertisements: Supreme Court turns heat on IMA; poses questions on alleged unethical conduct of its members

Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. PTI



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, April 23

Having kept Patanjali Ayurved co-founders Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna on tenterhooks over ‘misleading’ advertisements of the company, the Supreme Court on Tuesday turned the heat on petitioner Indian Medical Association (IMA) for its alleged unethical conduct over recommending overpriced drugs and line of treatment “for valuable consideration”.

“The petitioner (IMA) also needs to put its house in order. There are several complaints with regard to alleged unethical conduct of IMA…Misuse of their position in recommending highly expensive medicines, extraneous medicines for valuable consideration,” a Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah said.

Senior counsel PS Patwalia, representing IMA, said the association will respond to the issues raised by the Bench.

The Bench expanded the scope of the proceedings, saying, “We are not here to gun for a particular party or company…It’s a PIL… It’s not just limited to respondents (Patanjali Ayurved and its co-founders) before this court, but other FMCGs (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) also publishing misleading ads, taking the public for a ride, in particular, affecting health of babies, school-going children and senior citizens who have been consuming their products.”

Directing that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Information Technology be made parties to the case, the top court asked the three ministries to file affidavits spelling out their respective stand on various issues raised in the matter.

While hearing IMA’s petition seeking to control the alleged smear campaign and negative advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved against the Covid-19 vaccination drive and modern medicines, the Bench said the National Medical Commission and licencing authorities of various states and union territories should also be made parties to these proceedings.

The Bench took strong exception to a letter issued by the Ministry of Ayush to various states asking them not to act on Rule 170 of the Drugs and Magic Remedy Rules with regard to misleading advertisements.

“How can you say don’t take action while the matter is pending before two high courts…We are going to take serious cognizance of that letter issued by you. You need to explain. Patanjali has been waving that letter,” Justice Amanullah told Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj, who represented the Centre. It wanted various ministries to explain the action taken on misleading advertisements.

The Bench asked various ministries, IMA and NMC to file their affidavits in two weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on May 7.

At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi submitted on behalf of Patanjali Ayurved and its co-founders that advertisements had been issued in the press yesterday tendering unqualified apologies by proposed contemnors for their lapses.

The Bench sought to know why the apology was published only yesterday and if the apology was of the same size as the advertisements that were published by Patanjali Ayurved in newspapers in December last year.

Noting that said advertisements were not on record, the Bench directed that the same should be collated and filed in two days.

The Bench posted the matter relating to contempt proceedings against Patanjali Ayurved, Ramdev and Balkrishna for further hearing on April 30 after Rohatgi said additional advertisements shall be issued by the proposed contemnors tendering unconditional apology.

Facing contempt of court proceedings for publication of ‘misleading’ advertisements, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna had on April 16 tendered unconditional apologies in person with folded hands to the Supreme Court which had said they were “not off the hook”.

The top court had earlier noted that prima facie the company had violated the November 21, 2023 undertaking given to the top court.

On April 10, the top court had refused to accept “unconditional” apologies tendered by Ramdev and Balkrishna over publication of “misleading” advertisements, saying they deliberately violated its orders and tendered apologies only after being “caught on the wrong foot”.

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