Misleading Ad Case: Uttarakhand Suspends Licenses Of 14 Patanjali Products

The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority has informed the Supreme Court that it has suspended manufacturing licenses of 14 products from Patanjali Ayurved and its subsidiary Divya Yoga Pharmacy, for publishing misleading advertisements about these products. The action comes after the Supreme Court lambasted the State licensing authority for not acting on the violations promptly.

The Apex Court, noticing the Uttarakhand licensing authority’s affidavit filed on April 29 that the manufacturing licenses of 14 products were suspended on April 15 with immediate effect, remarked that the authority has finally woken up from sleep.

The division bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah came down heavily on the delay in action by the State licensing authority once again, during the hearing, said news reports quoting the bench.

The list of licenses suspended by the Authority include Swasari Gold, Swasari Vati, Swasari Pravahi, Swasari Avaleh,Mukta Vati Extra Power, BP Grit, Lipidom, Livamrit Advance, Livogrit, Eyegrit Gold, among others. The action has been taken under Rule 159(1) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

According to reports, the Court also expressed its dissatisfaction on Patanjali’s public apology. The Court asked the company to once again issue the apology and granted exemption to Patanjali founder Yoga guru Ramdev and the company director Balkrishan, said reports.

The Bench has in its previous hearing also come down heavily on the drug control administration of Uttarakhand for not acting against the misleading advertisements placed by Patanjali Ayurved for allegedly violating the Drugs and Other Magical Remedies Act, 1954.

It also opined that the issue relating to implementation of the relevant provisions of the Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and the Rules, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Rules and the Consumers Protection Act, 1986 and the Rules, need a closer examination in the light of the grievances raised by the petitioner, Indian Medical Association (IMA), “not just limited to the respondents before this Court, but to all similarly placed FMCGs/pharmaceutical companies who have been issuing misleading advertisements relating to the products manufactured and marketed by them and taking the public at large for a ride, in particular, adversely affecting the health and well-being of babies, young children, women (including lactating and pregnant women), senior citizens and the sick and infirm, who have been consuming the products on the basis of the said misrepresentations”.

Having regard to the number of misleading advertisements being published/displayed with little/nil accountability on the part of the manufacturers, promoters as also the press/electronic media, besides the Ministry of Ayush, it is considered necessary to implead the ministry of consumer affairs, ministry of food and public distribution, ministry of information and broadcasting and the ministry of electronics and information technology to examine the steps taken by each of the aforesaid Ministries to prevent the abuse of the Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and the Rules, the Drug and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. All the State Governments/UT Licensing Authorities being necessary and proper parties shall also be impleaded as correspondents in the present petition, said the division bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah in an order issued earlier this month.

The Court refused to hear the apologies of the State Licensing Authority on April 10, during when the bench also refused to accept the apology of the company, its founder Yoga guru Ramdev and the company’s senior executive Balakrishna.

The Court observed that the State authority merely warned the company even though the Union health ministry informed them about the misleading advertisement in 2021. The Drugs and Other Magical Remedies Act, 1954 does not provide for warning and there is no provision for compounding the offence, said a report quoting the Court.

“The Act does not contemplate a warning in the teeth of gross noncompliance of the provisions of the statute. As the State Licencing Authority is not before us, it is deemed appropriate to implement it as a respondent in the present proceedings,” it said in the order issued on April 2.

The issue is related to the advertisements placed by Patanjali Ayurved for its product Coronil, claiming that it is a pharmaceutical product, launched in February, 2021. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which raised objection against the advertisements and Ramdev’s remarks against modern medicine, approached the Court in August, 2022 alleging that Patanjali has issued advertisements claiming that its drugs cured various chronic diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure.

In November, last year, the Supreme Court warned Patanjali against such advertisements and Patanjali assured that it will not violate the rules. However, in January, this year, the Supreme Court took up the matter when it received an anonymous letter alleging that Patanjali continued to release similar advertisements.

The Supreme Court ordered both Ramdev and Balakrishna to appear in person before the bench. While Ramdev and Balakrishna submitted their apology, the Court refused to accept it and further came down heavily on the State regulatory authority.

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