"Please Spare Me," Begs Officer During Supreme Court Patanjali Ads Hearing

Patanjali Ads Case: The Supreme Court also fiercely censured Patanjali and co-founders Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna for repeatedly violating its orders and filing improper affidavits.

Baba Ramdev Controversy: The Supreme Court has rejected Patanjali's apology affidavits (File).

New Delhi:

A furious Supreme Court on Wednesday ripped into the Uttarakhand government's drug licencing authority, demanding to know why and how it failed to act against misleading ads floated by Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved, specifically for Coronil - a preparation touted as a "cure" for COVID-19.

A bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah - upset by what it sees as insincere apologies from the company and its founders - zeroed in on Dr Mithilesh Kumar, the Joint Director of the state's Food and Drug Administration, who at one point begged, with folded hands, for mercy.

"Please spare me..." Dr Kumar said to the court, "I came in June 2023... this happened before me."

The court, however, would not relent.

"Why should we? How did you have the guts to do this? What action did you take?" Justice Kohli asked. "One man seeks mercy (but) what about innocent people who took these medicines?"

The court - which minutes earlier also fiercely censured Patanjali Ayurved and co-founders Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna, for repeatedly violating its orders and filing improper affidavits - showed little sympathy for the official or the drug licensing authority, and suspended three of its officers.

READ | "We Will Rip You Apart": Court To Authorities In Patanjali Ads Case

"Now their (drug officials) backs are to the wall... they say 'we are issuing warning'," the court raged, dismissing arguments the Uttarakhand FDA had acted - by handing Patanjali a mere slap on the wrist.

"In 2021 the (Union Health) Ministry wrote to the Uttarakhand licensing authority against a misleading advertisement. However, the authority let off the company with a warning. The 1954 act does not provide for warning and there is no provision for compounding the offence," the court said.

The law in question is the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act.

"This happened six times... back and forth. The licensing inspector remained quiet. There is no report by the officer (in charge)... person appointed subsequently acted the same," the Supreme Court said.

READ | Supreme Court Snubs Apology By Patanjali's Ramdev, Again

Refocusing its ire on Dr Kumar, the court asked him why he failed to take legal advice when presented with the Health Ministry's notice. "Did you read the law? Do you think a warning was enough? What is the provision in this law? What case did you file? What steps did you take?"

"We will register (now)..." the beleaguered officer said.

"No... now you just sit at home for a few days. Or you can sit in office and write letters. You are playing with the public's health!" the court responded curtly.

Today's blistering takedown of the state drug authority comes a week after Patanjali Ayurved's co-founders were slammed for "absolute defiance" of the highest court in the land. Justices Kohli and Amanullah also posed serious questions to the centre's AYUSH Ministry, demanding to know why it had not acted against the company after its "shocking" ads that belittled contemporary medicine.

READ | "Absolute Defiance": Court Rebukes Patanjali, Centre In Ads Row

In February, the court also took the centre to task for "sitting with eyes closed".

The court was hearing a contempt case against Patanjali over publication of advertisements making false claims about its products and their medical efficacy. On February 27 the court had directed Patanjali to stop all electronic and print ads giving misleading information, with immediate effect.

The Patanjali co-founders had filed an affidavit agreeing to do so, but it was claimed that ads making such claims continued to be published.

The entire case began last year after the Indian Medical Association filed a petition claiming a smear campaign by Baba Ramdev against the Covid vaccination drive and modern medicine.

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