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SC Rejects Patanjali Ayurved’s Apology Again, Pulls Up Uttarakhand Govt For Inaction On Ads

The Supreme Court refused to accept the "unconditional apology" from Patanjali Ayurved's Founder Baba Ramdev and Managing Director (MD) Acharya Balkrishna in the contempt case related to misleading medical advertisements. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Patanjali, was informed by the bench that the presented affidavit appears to be merely "on paper", warning that the proposed contemnors may face penalties for breaching their undertaking.

| Published on April 10, 2024

SC Rejects Patanjali Ayurved's Apology Again, Pulls Up Uttarakhand Govt For Inaction On Ads

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to accept the “unconditional apology” by Patanjali Ayurved‘s Founder Baba Ramdev and Managing Director (MD) Acharya Balkrishna in the contempt case concerning misleading medical advertisements by Patanjali.

The recent and second affidavit submitted by Patanjali offered an “unconditional and unqualified apology” for airing advertisements in breach of an undertaking given to the court last year in November.

According to reports, the bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanudding Amanullah, told Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Patanjali, that the affidavit presented appears to be merely “on paper” and warned that the proposed contemnors should be prepared to face penal actions for violating the undertaking.

Furthermore, reports stated that Justice Kohli told Rohatgi, “Apology is on paper. Their back is against the wall. We decline to accept this, we consider it a deliberate violation of undertaking. Be ready for something next to rejection of affidavit.”

When Rohatgi said that “people make mistakes”, Justice Kohli mentioned, “Then they suffer. We don’t want to be so generous in this case.”

“Why should we not treat your apology with the same disdain as shown to court undertaking? We are not convinced. Now going to turn down this apology,” Justice Kohli added.

Towards the conclusion of the hearing, Rohatgi mentioned that the contemnors were ready to issue a public apology. However, the court did not grant them permission to do so.

Last week, the bench showed dissatisfaction with an earlier affidavit from Patanjali MD, citing comments terming the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 as “archaic”, reports stated.

Today, Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta told the Court that he had advised the lawyers to withdraw the initial affidavit, which was written in conditional terms, and instead submit an unconditional affidavit.

Furthermore, he said that he was curious to know about any oversight in his advising. However, the bench responded that the SG had taken all necessary steps, but the affidavit, despite his recommendation, remained unconvincing, existing only on paper.

The court observed in its order, “Having regard to the entire history of the matter and the past conduct of the respondents(5-7), we have expressed our reservations about accepting the latest affidavit filed by them.”

Additionally, the court remarked that the MD of Patanjali and Ramdev attempted to evade personal appearance before the court by falsely asserting travel abroad.

“Fact remains that the date when the affidavits were sworn (March 30), there was no such ticket in existence. Therefore, the assumption is that the respondents were trying to wriggle out of their personal appearance before the Court, which is most unacceptable,” the court said in the order.

During the hearing, the court also pulled up the State of Uttarakhand for its licensing authorities’ failure to taker legal action against Patanjali and its subsidiary Divya Pharmacy, questioning if they were “hand in glove” with the companies.

In its order, the court expressed dismay, stating it was “appalled” by the State Licensing Authorities’ lack of action, and that it noted that apart from “pushing the file”, the authority didn’t do anything and were merely attempting to “pass on the luck” to “somehow delay the matter”.

The Court pointed out that the State Licensing Authority is “equally complicit” for not taking action against Divya Pharmacy despite being aware of their advertisements violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act. It emphasised its decision to refrain from issuing contempt notices to other officers, instead directing all officers who held the post of Joint Director of the State Licensing Authority in Haridwar from 2018 until now to submit affidavits explaining their inaction during that period.

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