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SC asks Patanjali to file affidavit

SC asks Patanjali to file affidavit

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advertisements for its 14 products, whose manufacturing licences were initially suspended but later restored, have been withdrawn.

The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority had suspended the manufacturing licences of 14 products from Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Pharmacy on April 15. However, this suspension was subsequently overturned following a report by a high-level committee that examined the grievances of Patanjali in the wake of the controversy. On May 17, the operation of the suspension order was paused, and later, the suspension was cancelled. During the hearing, a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Sandeep Mehta took note of a May 16 affidavit from Patanjali, stating that the sale of the 14 products had been stopped in light of the April 15 suspension order. The affidavit also claimed that steps had been taken to remove related advertisements from the company’s official social media accounts.

“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request made to social media intermediaries have been acceded to and advertisements of 14 products have been removed/withdrawn,” the bench said.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 Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), alleging a smear campaign by Patanjali against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine. The bench has asked Patanjali to file its affidavit within two weeks.

The court also asked senior advocate P.S. Patwalia, representing the IMA, whether due diligence had been done to verify if these advertisements were withdrawn after Patanjali’s affidavit in May.

An advocate for one of the applicants urged the Centre to address the issue of misleading advertisements swiftly, highlighting the significant impact on the online industry. “The industry should not suffer. That is not the intent of the orders (of the court),” he said.

Justice Kohli clarified: “The intention is not to cause any harassment to anybody. The intention is only to focus on particular sectors and particular aspects.” A representative for a radio association noted that they had 10-second advertisements. “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 responded.

The bench emphasised that the issue should be discussed 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 stated.

The court requested advocate Shadan Farasat to assist as an amicus curiae, helping collate data from state authorities, including the Centre, to save time and focus on the highlighted issues. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, was asked to convene a meeting with stakeholders and senior officials to brainstorm solutions. Nataraj indicated that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has held high-level meetings with stakeholders to resolve issues and difficulties. The court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on July 30 and asked the Ministry to continue its discussions, filing an affidavit with its recommendations within three weeks. Affidavits filed by various state licensing authorities are to be reviewed by the amicus to assist the court in identifying any non-compliance.

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