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Ramdev in SC line of fire over misleading ads, “degrading” allopathy

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday warned yoga guru Ramdev and his aide Balkrishna against any attempt to “degrade allopathy” and permitted them to tender a “public apology and show contrition” within a week in the contempt proceedings in the misleading advertisements case against Patanjali Ayurved Ltd.

The court, however, made it clear that it is not letting them “off the hook” yet.

The apex court is hearing a plea filed in 2022 by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) alleging a smear campaign against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine.

The counsel appearing for Ramdev and Balkrishna, who both were personally present in the court and tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology, told a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah that they were willing to give a “public apology to show contrition”.

“Do what you have to do by way of an advertisement, we are not commenting on it. But at this moment, we are not saying they are off the hook,” the bench told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the duo.

While noting Rohatgi’s submission that to redeem themselves and demonstrate their bonafides, Ramdev and Balkrishna propose to take some steps unilaterally, the bench granted them one week and posted the matter for hearing on April 23.

During the hearing, the bench interacted with Ramdev and Balkrishna and asked them why they acted in violation of the undertaking given to the court and orders passed by it.

“We want to understand. Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna are both here. You have lot of prestige… people look at you, appreciate your works. You have done so many things for Yoga,” Justice Kohli told Ramdev.

“I want to say that whatever mistake I have done for that I have tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology,” Ramdev said in Hindi with folded hands.

Justice Kohli asked him about the press conference he addressed after the November 21 last year SC order which had noted the undertaking given by the counsel appearing for Patanjali Ayurved.

In that order, the apex court had noted that Patanjali’s counsel had assured it that “henceforth there shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products manufactured and marketed by it and, further, 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”.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Ramdev said he never had the intention to disrespect the court in any manner.

The Yoga guru said they should not have done what they did at that point of time and will keep this in mind in future. He said it happened in their zest for work.

Balkrishna also apologised for the mistake.

“You can’t degrade allopathy. You do your work. You are doing very good work,” Justice Amanullah observed.

The bench said it had passed the November last year order after Patanjali’s counsel gave an undertaking.

“You did all this when there was a court order. You were not so innocent that you were not aware what has happened in the court,” the bench said, adding, “So much innocence does not work in court”.

“If you are thinking that your lawyer has given apology, we have not made up our minds yet whether to accept your apology,” it said.

The bench got irked when Balkrishna, the managing director of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, said Ramdev has nothing to do with the day-to-day affairs of the firm.

“You are again adamant on your stand,” Justice Amanullah told Balkrishna, adding that the apology does not appear to be coming from the heart.

Rohatgi told the court at the very outset that they are willing to make a public apology.

“I had made a suggestion that I am willing to make a public apology to show contrition and to tell the public that it is not only that I am doing some lip service to the court,” he said.

“Ask your clients to step forward,” Justice Kohli said, gesturing the duo to move closer to the bench. “Let us hear what they have to say,” she said.

The bench told them there are many medical streams like Ayurved, Yoga, allopathy and Unani in India and the public uses them all. It said calling one stream bad and should be done away with is not correct.

Ramdev told the bench that such conflicts between two streams of medicine have existed for quite some time and his intention was not to disrespect allopathy.

Ramdev and Balkrishna had earlier tendered an “unconditional and unqualified apology” before the top court over advertisements issued by the firm making tall claims about the medicinal efficacy of its products.

In two separate affidavits filed in the court, they had tendered unqualified apology for the “breach of the statement” recorded in the November 21 last year order of the apex court.

Non-observance of the specific assurances made to the court and subsequent media statements by the duo had irked the bench, which later issued notice asking them to explain why contempt proceedings be not initiated against them.

While hearing the matter on April 10, the court had refused to accept their affidavits tendering unconditional apology and come down hard on the Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority for its inaction on the misleading advertisements issue. (PTI)

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