Supreme Court Directs Patanjali To File Affidavit On Ads For 14 Products

The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority had on April 15 issued an order suspending the manufacturing licences of 14 products of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Pharmacy.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Supreme Court of India. (Source: Varun Gakhar/NDTV Profit)</p></div>
Supreme Court of India. (Source: Varun Gakhar/NDTV Profit)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, founded by yoga guru Ramdev, to file an affidavit stating whether advertisements of its 14 products, whose manufacturing licences were initially suspended but later restored, have been withdrawn.

The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority had on April 15 issued an order suspending the manufacturing licences of 14 products of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Pharmacy.

In a fresh development, the state licensing authority has filed an affidavit in the apex court stating that the suspension order has been cancelled following a report by a high-level committee which examined the grievances of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd in the wake of the row.

It said on May 17, the operation of the April 15 order was paused and later the the suspension order was cancelled.

However, during the hearing, a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Sandeep Mehta took note of the May 16 affidavit of Patanjali in which the firm stated that the sale of these 14 products was stopped in light of the April 15 suspension order.

The affidavit stated that the company has also taken steps to remove the related advertisements from its official verified social media accounts/handles.

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"Respondent number five (Patanjali Ayurved Ltd) is directed to file an affidavit stating inter alia whether the request made to social media intermediaries have been acceded to and advertisements of 14 products have been removed/ withdrawn," the bench said.

The apex court, which was hearing a plea filed by the Indian Medical Association alleging a smear campaign by Patanjali against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine, asked the firm to file its affidavit within two weeks.

The bench asked senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for the IMA, whether they have done due diligence and checked if these advertisements were withdrawn after the affidavit was filed by Patanjali in May.

During the hearing, an advocate appearing for one of the applicants said the Centre should look into the matter related to misleading advertisements as quickly as possible.

"This is having a great impact on the online industry," he said, adding, "The industry should not suffer. That is not the intent of the orders (of the court)."

Justice Kohli said, "The intention is not to cause any harassment to anybody. The intention is only to focus on particular sectors and particular aspects." One of the advocates said he was appearing for a radio association and they have advertisements which are of 10 seconds.

"We are also of the opinion that the industry should not suffer in any manner. The focus of this court has already been highlighted in the previous orders and needs no repetition," the bench said.

It said the issue should be discussed by the authorities at the highest level.

"We don't want that there should be layers of approval so that whatever has to be shortened and simplified, that should be done," the bench said.

Noting that the scope of the petition has been expanded in terms of its order passed on May 7, the bench requested advocate Shadan Farasat to assist the court as an amicus curiae in the matter.

It said the amicus shall assist the court in collating the data being furnished by the state authorities, including the Centre and other authorities, so as to save time and focus on the issues highlighted by the court earlier.

"Can we request you to convene a meeting so that all the stakeholders and the senior most officers of your department can have a brain-storming," the bench told Additional Solicitor General, K M Nataraj, who was appearing for the Centre.

Nataraj said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has held high-level meetings with various stakeholders with an idea of resolving the issues and the difficulties expressed by them.

"He (ASG) submits that such meetings shall be taken further… to streamline the issues and point out the difficulties being faced by the intervenors and the manner in which they can be resolved," the bench noted.

It asked the ministry to continue the 'churning of ideas' and have further meetings in this direction and file an affidavit making its recommendations within three weeks.

The bench said affidavits filed by several state licensing authorities in the matter be furnished to the amicus for his perusal and to enable him to assist the court by pointing out if there were any non-compliance by any of the state authorities in terms of the orders passed by the court.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on July 30.

On May 14, the apex court had reserved its order on the contempt notice issued to yoga guru Ramdev, his aide Balkrishna and Patanjali Ayurved Ltd in the misleading advertisements case.

Patanjali Ayurved Ltd had assured the top court on November 21 last year that it will not violate any law, especially those relating to advertising or branding of products manufactured and marketed by it.

It had also assured the bench that 'no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form'.

The top court had said Patanjali Ayurved Ltd is 'bound down to such assurance'.

The non-observance of the specific undertaking and subsequent media statements had irked the bench, which later issued notices to show cause why contempt proceedings should be not initiated against them.

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