The Managing Director of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Acharya Balkrishna, tendered an unqualified apology before the Supreme Court for publishing advertisements regarding medicinal cures in breach of an undertaking given to the Court.

The apex court’s decision came on Tuesday after an affidavit was filed, a day after the court came down heavily on Patanjali Ayurved for not responding to a contempt notice over misleading advertisements. The bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah haveasked Balkrishna and Ramdev to appear in court on April 2.

In an affidavit filed in the court, Balkrishna has said he has the highest regards for the rule of law. Extending an "unqualified apology", he said the company will "ensure that such advertisements are not issued in the future".

According to LiveLaw, the bench of Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Prashant Kumar Mishra was considering a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association against misleading advertisements.

Speaking to The Citizen, one of the members of IMA, on the condition of anonymity said that Patanjali has been misleading people with false claims about cures.

“There is a trend going on where allopathy is being dismissed. It is a dangerous trend. As medical professionals we do not recommend people to homeopathy when their life is on the lines, nor do we guarantee cures. What sort of an environment are we living in where doctors have less value than these misleading products,” the medical professional said.

Meanwhile, the bench ordered Patanjali to stop misleading advertisements immediately.

“All such false and misleading advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved have to stop immediately. The court will take any such infraction very seriously, and the court will also consider imposing costs to the extent of Rs 1 crore on every product regarding which a false claim is made that it can ‘cure’ a particular disease,” Justice Amanullah said.

The court directed Patanjali Ayurved not to publish any such advertisements in the future and to ensure that casual statements are not made to the media.

The bench said the issue was not “allopathy vs ayurveda” but to find a real solution to the problem of misleading medical advertisements, according to LiveLaw.

The bench told additional solicitor general K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the Union Government, to find a “viable solution” for the problem and come up with suitable recommendations after consultations. The matter will be considered again on February 5, 2024.

The petition was filed in mid-2022 after Patanjali published an advertisement in July that the IMA said sought to “promote traditional medicine by disparaging allopathy” and a “continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation” regarding allopathy. Last year, issuing notice, the court pulled up Ramdev.

“What happened to Baba Ramdev? He can popularise his system, but why should he criticise other systems. We all respect him, he popularised yoga but he shouldn’t criticise other systems. What is the guarantee that his system will work? He cannot refuse the doctor system. He must exercise restraint in abusing other systems,” said then Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana.

The IMA petition says even though the Ministry of AYUSH has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for monitoring misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs, Patanjali has continued its “disregard for the law, violating the mandate with impunity.”

In a separate case, the Delhi high court last year told Ramdev not to “mislead” people against allopathy and not to make any claims beyond what authorities had stated about Patanjali’s product Coronil. The court took exception to Patanjali advertising it as a “cure” for COVID-19.

Last year, Ramdev had called IMA liars after the Supreme Court reprimanded them for advertisements. He also claimed that a few doctors have come together to run a propaganda against him and his company, Patanjali, to defame it and the century-old practice of Yoga.

Founded in 2006 by Ramdev and Balkrishna, Patanjali Ayurved is a multinational conglomerate that manufactures a long list of products, ranging from ayurvedic medicine to cosmetics to food items.

According to Patanjali Foods CEO Sanjeev Asthana the company in 2023 had a turnover of ₹31,000 crore.

Meanwhile, Ramdev has claimed that the annual revenue of Patanjali group will cross Rs 1 lakh crore mark in the next five years from around Rs 45,000 crore recorded in FY 2022-23.

The turnover of Patanjali Foods, which made its stock markets debut in 2022, is likely to surge to over Rs 50,000 crore, the yoga guru turned entrepreneur said. The company’s turnover last fiscal stood at around Rs 31,500 crore.

It is to be noted that the Patanjali Foods registered 18.16% growth in Q4FY23 net profit to ₹349.38 crore compared to ₹295.69 crore, the same time when the apex court had reprimanded them for false advertisement.

The company, which was formerly known as Ruchi Soya, managed to continue to sustain its growth momentum in the revenues as it posted a growth of 18.15% to ₹7,872.92 crore in the March 2023 quarter as against ₹6,663.72 crore a Q4 of the previous fiscal.

However, the conglomerate has run into trouble over misleading advertisements about the efficacy of their products.

In 2015, Patanjali Foods found itself in trouble when bugs were spotted inside the sealed pack by a man who purchased it from a Swadeshi store in Narwana, in the Jind region of Haryana.

“There is no guarantee to the products they sell. We are not playing a division game but it is the people’s health we are talking about here,” the IMA member said.