The Supreme Court has refused to accept second Affidavit tendering unconditional apology filed by Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Managing Director (MD) Acharya Balakrishna over Patanjali Ayurved's alleged "misleading advertisements."

During the hearing, Senior Advocate PS Patwalia appeared for the Petitioner; Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Balakrishna; Senior Advocate Balbir Singh appeared for Ramdev, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, along with Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Nataraj, appeared for the Union of India and Senior Advocate Dhruv Mehta appeared for the State Licencing Authority under the Food Safety and Standards Act.

The Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah was dealing with a Writ Petition filed under Article 32 by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), wherein, by an Order dated February 27, 2024, Patanjali was restrained from advertising or branding some of the products manufactured and marketed by it that are meant to address the ailments/diseases/conditions mentioned under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 and the Rules. The Court had issued notice to Balakrishna and Ramdev to show cause as to why action should not be taken against him for contempt of court.

At the outset, SG Mehta submitted, "I had suggested them apology must be tendered, must be unconditional and unqualified and it must contain an assurance on Affidavit that, that would not be repeated."

Justice Kohli said, "So, they don't believe in accepting your recommendations. We are pretty much alright! If they don't believe in it....Free advise is always accepted like that Mr. Mehta we will now continue with the matter because we are not satisfied with anything said in the Affidavit."

"What they (Ramdev and Balakrishna) are saying, we don't approve of," Justice Amanullah added.

Justice Kohli on perusal of the Affidavits, said, "The apology that are on record are on paper. We think having being caught on the wrong foot and noticing that their back is actually against the wall and...saying all kinds of things the very next day of the Order passed where your Counsel had given an undertaking. We do not accept this Affidavit. We decline to accept or condone it. We consider it a willful and deliberate violation of an Order and a breach of the Order passed."

"Be ready for something next to the rejection of an Affidavit. We decline to accept this Affidavit," Justice Kohli remarked. She added, "Mr. Rohatgi we don't want to be so generous in this case."

Justice Kohli asked, "We are wondering, why should we not treat your apologies with the same disdain that you showed to your undertakings and the Orders of this Court."

"Three times...not one," Justice Amanullah said.

Justice Kohli said, "We are going to turn down these apology, they are nothing but a piece of a message should go to the society at large that they may be Indian FMGC, there are several other who should also know how to conduct themselves when their is a statute, which is to be valued, accepted, acted on."

The Bench while dictating the Order in open Court said, "Having regard to the entire history of the matter and the past conduct of the Respondents (5, 6, 7 Contemnors) we have expressed our reservations about accepting the latest Affidavit filed by them"

The Court noted that the Respondents were trying to rigour out of their personal appearance, and it is "most unacceptable".

Taking note of the Affidavit filed by the Uttarakhand State Licencing Authority, the Court came down heavily on it for not taking legal action against Patanjali and its subsidiary, Divya Pharmacy. The Bench said that the State Licensing Authority is "equally complicit" due to its inaction against the pharmacy despite having information about their advertisements violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act. The Court directed the officer holding the post of State Licensing Authority and his predecessors to file affidavits explaining the action taken by them.

Accordingly, the Court scheduled the matter for further consideration on April 16.

Ramdev and the MD of Patanjali have tendered an unconditional apology to the Court for not abiding by the undertaking given to it in the misleading advertisement case. The Affidavit was filed on Saturday, i.e. April 6. "I hereby tender my unconditional apology in regard to the issue of advertisements... I sincerely regret this lapse and I wish to assure the Hon'ble court that the same will not be repeated. I hereby tender an unconditional and unqualified apology for the breach of the statement recorded in para 3 of the order of this Hon'ble court dated 21.11.2023," the Affidavit read.

The Affidavit also stated, "I further undertake and ensure that the said statement shall be complied with in letter and spirit and no such similar advertisements shall be used... I seek pardon for the aforesaid breach of the statement. I undertake to always uphold the majesty of law and the majesty of justice."

On April 2, the Bench had directed both Ramdev and Balakrishna to remain present before it on the next date. The Bench also granted them a last opportunity to file their affidavits in the matter in one week. It is to be noted that on March 19, the Court had directed Ramdev and Balakrishna to appear before it for the first time for not replying to the show cause notice issued to them in contempt proceedings.

Pertinently, on February 27, the Court had come down heavily on Patanjali Ayurveda conglomerate for persistently disseminating alleged misleading claims and advertisements targeting modern systems of medicine and restrained it from advertising or branding some of the products manufactured and marketed by it that were meant to address the ailments/diseases/conditions mentioned under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 and the Rules. The Court had also expressed dissatisfaction with Patanjali Ayurved's ongoing promotion of such misleading information, despite giving an assurance in November 2023.

On the earlier occasion, the Court had orally told Senior Advocate P S Patwalia, who appeared for the Petitioner that it is focused on the cause and on any individual. Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya had then requested that the part of the order where the Court says that the issue is confined to Patanjali be corrected to say that the matter is not confined to Patanjali. Justice Amanullah said that Patanjali's case will be used as a test case, something to begin with for the present and that the exercise will not be limited to Patanjali. Also, previously, the bench had also expressed its reluctance to turn the matter into a debate of "Allopathy vs. Ayurveda".

Cause Title: Indian Medical Association v. Union Of India [W.P.(C) No. 645/2022]