The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued contempt notice against Patanjali Ayurved and its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna for publishing advertisements of products in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and its Rules despite an undertaking given to the court in November.

A Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said the company and Balakrishna had violated its assurance to the apex court on November 21, 2023 to refrain from advertising or branding its products as “permanent relief” for diseases like obesity, blood pressure, asthma, etc, in violation of the 1954 Act.

“What do you mean by ‘permanent relief’? There are only two types of permanent relief. One, the person dies. Two, the person is cured. There is no third ‘permanent relief’,” Justice Amanullah addressed the lawyer for Patanjali. Justice Amanullah asked the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, whether it had taken any action on the issue of Patanjali advertisements violating the law.

“The entire country has been taken for a ride. And you shut your eyes? What did you do for two years? The Act itself said that it (misleading advertisements) was prohibited. You should have taken urgent action… This is an unfortunate situation,” Justice Amanullah addressed the government law officer.

Nataraj said he would file a “better” affidavit. He said it was up to the States to implement the provisions of the Act. During the hearing, the court pointed out that it had on November 21 directed the company to not make any “casual statements” to the print or electronic media about the efficacy of their medicinal products or indulge in any disparaging statements about other disciplines of medicine like allopathy.

However, the Bench observed, a press conference was held by Baba Ramdev, on November 22, the very next day of the Supreme Court order. When the court asked how exactly Baba Ramdev was associated with Patanjali, the company’s lawyer vaguely responded that he was a yoga guru and a sanyasi.

Senior advocate PS Patwalia, appearing for the petitioners including the Indian Medical Association, intervened at this point to point out metaphorically that Baba Ramdev was like “everything and nothing at the same time” to Patanjali. Justice Amanullah said the court was not bothered by “who was who”. The order of the apex court was violated. “In November, we had specifically said there should be no violation of any law. That means that there should be nothing misleading, especially advertisements of drugs manufactured and marketed by you. We told you to not make any casual statements… But you are still advertising your products as a ‘permanent relief’. There was a ban on you advertising your products as a permanent relief for ailments under the 1954 Act,” Justice Kohli told the Patanjali side.

The Bench directed the company and its Managing Director to file their replies to the contempt notice in two weeks. Meanwhile, the court restrained Patanjali from advertising or branding medicinal products as cures for diseases or disorders specified under the 1954 Act and its Rules.

The court also cautioned the stakeholders or officers in Patanjali from making any statements adverse to any system of medicine in the print or electronic media in any form. The Bench listed the case on March 19.