What's Behind The Supreme Court's Rebuke Of The Patanjali’s Marketing Tactics?

The petition that IMA filed, referred to occasions when Ramdev called allopathy a 'stupid and bankrupt science'.

 (Photo by Sonu Mehta via Getty Images)
Yoga Guru Ramdev during the launch of Patanjali premium products at Constitution Club of India, on June 16, 2023 in New Delhi, (Photo by Sonu Mehta via Getty Images)

On April 10, The Supreme Court refused to accept the affidavit of the unconditional apology for the ‘misleading advertisement’ by Patanjali Ayurved. The court rejecting the apology said that the apology came when ‘it was caught on the wrong foot’ and the court is ‘not blind’. The case will be heard next on April 16.

The SC also criticised the Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority and the Uttarakhand government for their inaction and failure to take action against Patanjali for violating the law.

What is the case and who filed it?

In August 2022, the Indian Medical Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court after Patanjali Ayurveda presented an advertisement with the caption ‘Misconceptions Spread by Allopathy: Save Yourself and The Country from The Misconceptions Spread by Pharma and Medical Industry. Let’s make India Disease Free.’

The petition that IMA filed, referred to occasions when Ramdev called allopathy a 'stupid and bankrupt science', the petition also mentioned that Ramdev made claims that allopathic medicines are responsible for the deaths due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and IMA accused Patanjali of contributing to vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic.

Screengrab of the Patanjalis Advertisement
Screengrab of the Patanjali's Advertisement

What Does the Advertisement Say?

According to IMA, the Patanjali in its advertisement quoted, “The life of the people taking medicines for years to control diseases like the B.P., Sugar, Thyroid, Asthma, and cholesterol, etc. has become hell due to the side effects of these medicines and prolonged diseases. With scientific research on the knowledge obtained from great sages like Charak, Sushrut, Dhanvantari, and Patanjali, we have succeeded in rooting out the disease and making crores of people completely free from all diseases.”

The advertisement further adds that “Despite regularly taking prescribed years, people suffering from B.P. are facing further complications like heart or brain stroke, kidney failure, irritability, and insomnia, etc.”

The advertisement also claims that “However we have successfully cured crores of patients with the help of regular Pranayam, Yoga, Shirodhara processes and medicines such as gourd juice, BPgrit and Muktavati. Our therapies have brought their B.P. levels in normal range along with other complications completely rectified.”

Rather than Blood Pressure, the Patanjali also made comments on other health issues such as Diabetes, thyroid, arthritis, and some other incurable diseases.

When the case reached the Supreme Court

The first hearing of the case took place on November 21, 2023. During the first hearing, Justice Amanullah verbally warned the company of the claims that their products could completely cure diseases. He also alarmed Patanjali, of imposing a fine of Rs 1 crore on each of their product for which such advertisements were made.

Advocate Sajan Poovayya, who was defending the Patanjali in the hearing said, “There shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products manufactured and marketed by it and, further, that no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form.”

What did the affidavit of apology say?

Ramdev and Balkrishna, the chairman of the Patanjali, submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court apologising for the advertisement. The affidavit reads, “I hereby tender my unconditional apology in regard to the issue of advertisements which occurred after the statement of counsel of respondent no. 5 (Patanjali) which was recorded in the order dated November 21, 2023, which I am informed has the force of an injunction."