"You Are Not So Innocent...": Supreme Court To Ramdev In Patanjali Ads Case

The Supreme Court had come down heavily on the Patanjali founders during the previous hearing last week. It had also pulled up the Uttarakhand government for not acting against the Haridwar-based company.

Ramdev and Balkrishna will be in the Supreme Court today in the misleading ads case

New Delhi:

Yoga guru Ramdev and his aide Balkrishna are in the Supreme Court today as it hears the contempt case against Patanjali Ayurved in connection with its misleading ads and Covid cure claims. The court had come down heavily on the Patanjali founders during the previous hearing last week. It had also pulled up the Uttarakhand government for not acting against the Haridwar-based company.

This morning, the bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice A Amanullah called the Patanjali founders forward and told them they have made significant contribution to yoga. "We respect what you have done for yoga," the bench said. The two have said they are ready to offer a public apology. Ramdev said it was never his intention to bring down the prestige of the Supreme Court. 

The court pointed to their "attitude" and questioned why they shot down other systems of medicine to stress the benefits of Ayurveda. Justice Amanullah said that the "law is the same for everybody". Ramdev replied that he would be careful in the future. 

The court said it will consider the matter in the light of all the earlier developments. "We have not decided whether to forgive you or not. You have violated (directives) thrice. The earlier orders are under our consideration. You are not so innocent that you did not know what's happening in court," the court said, adding that the next hearing will be held on April 23. Ramdev and Balkrishna have been asked to appear in the court again and take steps to demonstrate their intent. 

Speaking to the media outside the court, Ramdev said, "I have said what I had to. I have full faith in the judiciary."

The court has earlier rejected two sets of apologies by Ramdev and Balkrishna, noting that the letters were sent to the media first. "Till the matter hit the court, the contemnors did not find it fit to send us the affidavits. They believe in publicity clearly," Justice Hima Kohli said last week.

Justice A Amanullah, also on the bench, asked if the apology is "even heartfelt". "Tendering apology is not enough. You should suffer the consequences for violating the court's order," he said.

The matter dates back to the Covid years, when Patanjali launched a drug, Coronil, in 2021 and Ramdev described it as the "first evidence-based medicine for COVID-19". The Indian Medical Association spoke out against the "blatant lie" that Coronil had WHO certification.

Subsequently, a video of Ramdev, in which he was heard saying that allopathy was a "stupid and bankrupt science", went viral. He said no modern medicine was curing Covid. The IMA sent a legal notice to Ramdev and sought an apology and withdrawal of statements. Patanjali Yogpeeth responded that Ramdev was reading out from a forwarded WhatsApp message and has no ill-will against modern science.

In August 2022, IMA moved a petition against Patanjali after it published an advertisement in newspapers titled 'Misconceptions Spread By Allopathy: Save Yourself And The Country From The Misconceptions Spread By Pharma And Medical Industry'. The ad claimed that Patanjali drugs had cured people of diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid, liver cirrhosis, arthritis and asthma.

The doctors' body said the "continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation" comes alongside Patanjali's efforts to make false claims about curing certain diseases through use of Patanjali products.

On November 21, 2023, the Supreme Court warned Patanjali against claims that its products can completely cure ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure and threatened to slap heavy fines.

Patanjali's counsel, court documents say, then assured that "henceforth, there shall not be any violation of any of the laws, especially relating to advertisement and branding of products".

On January 15 this year, the Supreme Court received an anonymous letter addressed to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud with copies marked to Justice Kohli and Justice Amanullah. The letter mentioned misleading advertisements Patanjali continued to put out. IMA's counsel, Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, also showed the court newspaper advertisements after the November 21, 2023 warning and transcript of a press conference by Ramdev and Balkrishna right after the court's hearing.

It sought a reply from the company on why contempt proceedings should not be initiated. In strong remarks, the court said the "country is being taken for a ride" and that the government was "sitting with its eyes shut".

On March 19, the court was told that Patanjali had not filed the reply to the contempt notice. It then asked Ramdev and Balkrishna to appear in person. The court came down heavily on Ramdev and Balkrishna in its April 2 hearing for their "absolute defiance" over not filing proper affidavits over the misleading advertisements. The court told them to be "ready for action".

"Your apology is not persuading this court. It is more of a lip service," the Supreme Court said, rejecting their apology, and asked them to file affidavits within a week.

This set of apologies was rejected on April 10 after the Supreme Court noted that they were sent to the media first.