Misleading ads case: SC refuses to accept Baba Ramdev’s second apology

New Delhi, Apr 10 (UNI) The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to accept the second apology of Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna in the contempt case over the publication of misleading medical advertisements, as the contemnors deliberately evaded personal presence before the court.

The bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah refused to accept the latest apology affidavit filed by Patanjali co-founder Baba Ramdev, his company Patanjali and its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna expressing “unconditional and unqualified apology” for airing the advertisements in breach of an undertaking given to the Court in November last year.

Despite the directions issued by the court to both Ramdev and Balkrishna to be personally present before the Court in today’s hearing, no one was present.

On the last hearing, both of them were present before the Apex court to tender their apology, but today Baba Ram Dev and Acharya Balkrishna filed an affidavit seeking exemption of their presence in the court as they were travelling abroad.

‘The court remarked that Ramdev tried to evade personal appearance by making false claims about foreign travel.’

The Court observed that though the applications were filed on March 30, the flight tickets produced as annexures, “strangely enough”, were dated March 31.

In the latest affidavits, Balkrishna and Ramdev admitted that the tickets were issued on a day after the affidavits were sworn and explained that at the time of filing of the affidavit, the photocopies of the tickets were annexed.

The court said, “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 appearance before the Court, which is most unacceptable,” the Top Court stated in the order.

The bench told Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Patanjali that the affidavit is merely “on paper” and warned that the proposed contemnors should be ready to face penal action for violation of the undertaking.

The Court declined to accept the undertaking saying that “We consider it a deliberate violation of undertaking. Why should we not treat your apology with the same disdain as shown to the court undertaking? Justice Kohli remarked.

Rohatgi said that the contemnors are prepared to issue a public apology. However, the court did not grant any relief and refused to accept the apology.

The bench had expressed dissatisfaction with the affidavit submitted by Patanjali MD since it contained certain comments terming the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 “archaic.

Today, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta told the Court that he had advised the lawyers to withdraw the first affidavit, as it was written in conditional terms and filed an unconditional affidavit.

The SG further said that he was curious to know what he missed in advising. The court responded to this and said that the SG had done all he could, but the affidavit.

The Court also came down heavily on the State of Uttarakhand for the failure of its licensing authorities to take legal action against Patanjali and its subsidiary Divya Pharmacy. The bench asked why it should not think that the authorities were “hand in glove” with Patanjali/Divya Pharmacy.

The Court directed that all officers holding the post of Joint Director of the State Licensing Authority, Haridwar between 2018 and till date shall also file affidavits explaining inaction on their part.

The matter pertains to a contempt case which arises out of a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association against Patanjali’s advertisements attacking allopathy and making claims about curing certain diseases.

After the Apex Court’s notice, Baba Ramdev, Acharya Balakrishna had assured the court in last November that it would refrain from such advertisements.

Noting that the misleading advertisements continued, the Court issued a contempt notice to Patanjali and its MD in February.

In March, considering that a reply to the contempt notice was not filed, the personal appearance of the Patanjali MD as well as Baba Ramdev, who featured in the press conferences and advertisements published after the undertaking, was ordered by the Court.

Subsequently, the Patanjali MD filed an affidavit saying that the advertisements were meant to contain only general statements but inadvertently included offending sentences. It was further stated that the advertisements were bona-fide and that Patanjali’s media personnel was not “cognizant” of the November order (where the undertaking was given before the top Court).

In the affidavit, Baba Ramdev also wrote that the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act was in an “archaic state” as it was enacted at a time when scientific evidence regarding Ayurvedic medicines was lacking.

Leave a Reply