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Thursday, May 23, 2024

SC says “We will rip you apart” in Patanjali case. Will Hon’ble milords do the same for MNCs over misleading ads?

The Supreme Court delivered a scathing rebuke to Patanjali Ayurved and its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna, rejecting their second affidavit of apology in a contempt case related to the publication of misleading medical advertisements. The bench, comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, refused to accept the latest apology filed by Patanjali and Balkrishna, expressing dissatisfaction with what they deemed a mere “on-paper” apology.

The Court asserted that the proposed contemnors should be prepared to face penal action for their deliberate violation of an undertaking given to the Court in November last year. Justice Kohli remarked that the apology appeared to be a deliberate violation of the undertaking and warned that the Court was inclined to reject it outright.

In addition to criticising Patanjali and its officials, the Court also directed scrutiny towards the State of Uttarakhand’s licensing authorities for their failure to take legal action against Patanjali and its subsidiary, Divya Pharmacy. Expressing dissatisfaction with the inaction of the state’s officers, the Court rebuked, “We have strong objection to the use of the word ‘bonafide’ for officers. We are not going to take (it) lightly. We will rip you apart,” it said, saying that officers were just “pushing files”.

The contempt case against Patanjali originated from a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association regarding advertisements ‘attacking’ allopathy and allegedly making false claims about curing certain diseases. 

IMA and its earlier controversies

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) was criticised in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic for various controversies. Initially, it clashed with Yoga Guru Ramdev over his views on allopathic medicine, and later, allegations surfaced of proselytising during the pandemic. 

Ramdev’s comments, labelling allopathy as “stupid” and attributing deaths to allopathic medicines, drew a strong rebuke from the IMA, citing violations of the Epidemic Diseases Act and Indian Penal Code. 

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) condemned Baba Ramdev’s disparaging remarks on allopathy, threatening legal action if the Health Ministry fails to intervene. Interestingly, the letter was signed by Dr J.A. Jayalal, previously criticised for allegedly advocating Hindu-to-Christian conversions within hospitals. Jayalal’s views on using the medical platform for religious evangelism and accusing the government of promoting Hindutva added layers to the controversy surrounding the IMA’s confrontation with Ramdev.

Moreover, the IMA endorsed commercial products like PepsiCo’s Tropicana and Quaker Oats, Crompton Greaves LED bulbs, Dettol soap, Kent water purifiers, and Asian Paints, raising concerns about prioritising financial gains over public health. Critics question the scientific basis of these endorsements, highlighting the association’s inconsistency in dismissing non-allopathic treatments while endorsing such products.

IMA’s conversion controversy

Dr. Johnrose Austin Jayalal, the current president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), stirred controversy with his missionary zeal to convert individuals to Christianity. Jayalal was the person behind the legal battle against Patanjali. In 2021, Jayalal criticised Hindu nationalism and governmental support for Ayurveda, advocating for Christian evangelism within secular medical institutions. He viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity for conversion, dismissing traditional Indian medical practices as “quackery.” Despite opposition, he promoted the idea of integrating Christian principles into medical treatment. In an interview with Christianity Today, he expressed a fervent desire to convert medical students, doctors, and patients to Christianity, asserting that one’s profession does not restrict religious practice. Jayalal prioritises “spiritual healing” over physical curing, promoting the idea of Christian doctors spreading “Christian healing” in secular institutions. 

The IMA had earlier defamed former min Harsh Vardhan

The Delhi Medical Association (DMA), a state branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), rebuked the IMA’s criticism of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for endorsing Patanjali’s Coronil tablet. DMA labelled IMA’s statement defamatory, asserting Harsh Vardhan’s integrity. IMA had questioned the minister’s promotion of Coronil, deeming it unscientific and violating medical ethics. DMA defended Harsh Vardhan’s attendance at Patanjali’s event, emphasising his role as the Health Minister. They urged IMA to focus on medical issues rather than interfering in drug trials. IMA’s national president reaffirmed their stance on Coronil’s efficacy but distanced from personal remarks against Harsh Vardhan.

Supreme Court, the IMA, and their hypocrisy

As we have seen, the IMA is openly Christian, and its head wants to convert people. The Supreme Court finds it ‘inconveniencing’ to question the association over this. However, Patanjali, a brand that promotes Ayurveda and Indic ways of healing, is a convenient target. 

The SC will not question the IMA or any other faith healers over their healing techniques. 

In 2015, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned Maggi due to excessive lead and MSG levels linked to health concerns. However, the SC intervened, leading to Maggi’s reinstatement in stores once restrictions were lifted. Nestlé subsequently removed the claim of ‘No added MSG’ from its products. Justice Amanullah and IMA Chief John Jaylal seem determined to challenge Patanjali and Baba Ramdev. The SC’s open bias needs to be condemned. 

Back in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was raging, products such as “antibacterial” LED bulbs and ” immunity-boosting” hand sanitisers from Lifebuoy were available in the market, and some were even “recommended” by the IMA!

Source: X
Source: X

Products such as ‘health” drinks loaded with sugar with promises of 2x faster growth in children are freely available in the market. 

Source: X

Are advertisements such as these not misleading the public? Will the courts listen to pleas only if big organisations like the IMA file it? What kind of selective court observations are these where only Ayurvedic products are targeted? 

Recently, there was an uproar on social media when an Instagram handle called FoodPharmer made a video on Bournvita and its contents, calling out the brand’s hypocrisy. They even sent him a legal notice. They backed down after social media outrage and subsequent government action to remove misleading ads. 

Notably, products banned abroad are available in the market in Bharat. Why don’t the courts or IMA question that? Courts find it okay to use words like “rip you apart” when over 80,000 cases are pending at the Supreme Court. 

As the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s comments on Patanjali’s advertisements simmers on, questions arise about the court’s stance on Ayurvedic products and the Indian Medical Association’s endorsements. The court’s stringent stance against Patanjali’s misleading advertisements raises concerns about the regulation of Ayurvedic products and the potential for other companies engaging in similar practices to be held accountable. This situation highlights the need for similar treatment of all healthcare providers, nutrition/fitness experts, multinational corporations, if the Supreme Court wants to avoid being called “biased”. 

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