Patanjali ads: SC slams Uttarakhand SLA over inaction

NEW DELHI, 10 Apr: “We will rip you apart,” the Supreme Court warned the Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority (SLA) on Wednesday, slamming it for inaction over misleading advertisements issued by Patanjali Ayurved.
The apex court said that the SLA remained in “deep slumber” and there was a clear attempt by it to “pass the buck” and somehow delay the matter despite it being informed about the misleading advertisements.
“Why should we not think that you were in cahoots with the contemnor respondents and you were keeping your eyes shut deliberately?” a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah told the counsel appearing for the authority.
Coming down heavily on the state licensing body, the bench said it was “appalled to note that except for pushing the files,” the authority has done nothing.
“In all these four-five years, the State Licensing Authority has remained in deep slumber,” the bench said.
The bench asked why the officer of the licensing authority and district Ayurvedic and Unani officers should not be suspended for their inaction.
When the authority’s counsel referred to the bona fides of its officers, an anguished bench said, “Bona fide you say? We will rip you apart on bona fide. We will rip you apart.”
The counsel appearing for the authority told the court that its incumbent joint director had taken over the post in June last year.
The top court said that, in its opinion, “nine months is enough time for the officer to have acted in accordance with law.”
The bench said that it appeared that his predecessor was “equally complicit” in light of the same inaction during his tenure.
It said that the authority has filed a detailed affidavit before the court trying to explain the action taken by it on the central government corresponding with the authority regarding objectionable advertisements of AYUSH products manufactured by Divya Pharmacy.
“The disdain shown by Divya Pharmacy to the repeated notices of show cause issued by the State Licensing Authority is apparent from the tone and tenor of their reply,” it observed.
The bench said that it appeared that if the court would not step in, the authority would abdicate its duties under the statute and await an order from the apex court for implementation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.
“Besides the proposed contemnors, we are inclined to issue notices of contempt to the deponent of the affidavit (filed by the authority) as also his predecessor. However, we are refraining from doing so in the present” it said.
It said that the Centre had clearly told the state authority in 2020 to stop the objectionable advertisements.
It said that the predecessor of the incumbent joint director of the authority shall file an affidavit explaining the inaction on his part during his tenure.
The bench also directed that the district Ayurvedic and Unani officers, Haridwar, who were posted from 2018 till date shall also file affidavits explaining the inaction on their part.
It observed that the officer concerned with the authority “remained quiet” and only forwarded the files.
“He is a post office. The person appointed subsequently also does the same,” it said, adding, “If this is not dereliction of duty then what is?”
“Take it seriously. The matter is serious,” the bench said.
It also refused to accept the affidavits of yoga guru Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved managing director Balkrishna tendering unconditional apologies over publishing misleading advertisements, asserting that the apologies were “on paper” and the court doesn’t want to be “so generous.”
The apex court is hearing a plea filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), alleging a smear campaign against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine.
On 19 March, the court had directed Ramdev and Balkrishna to appear before it after taking exception to the company’s failure to respond to the notice issued in the case relating to advertisements of the firm’s products and their medicinal efficacy.
The top court had said that it deemed it appropriate to issue Ramdev a show cause notice “as advertisements issued by Patanjali, which were in the teeth of the undertaking given to the court on 21 November, 2023, reflect an endorsement by him.” (PTI)