India's top yoga guru faces judges' ire in misleading ads case

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev must again appear before judges on April 10, said the court

Reuters
Published : 3 April 2024, 08:50 AM
Updated : 3 April 2024, 08:50 AM

India's top court on Tuesday warned the nation's most popular yoga guru and his company of stern legal action for not complying with its directive to stop advertisements saying traditional ayurvedic medicines can fully cure some diseases.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, dressed in a saffron-coloured robe, and his co-founder Acharya Balkrishna were present in the Supreme Court when the judges issued their warning in contempt proceedings against their firm Patanjali Ayurved, which sells hugely popular ayurvedic medicines.

The case relates to the Indian Medical Association's allegations that Patanjali disparages conventional medicines and continued publishing ads that said traditional medicines offered a "permanent solution" for blood pressure and asthma, despite an assurance given to court last year to stop them.

The court said it was not convinced by the company's apology and must explain in detail why it continued with its ads.

"Be ready for the consequences...take this contempt seriously," Justice Hima Kohli told Ramdev and the company's lawyers in court.

Though the judges did not say what action they could take against Ramdev, a contempt of a court directive under Indian law attracts a jail term of up to six months and a monetary penalty.

A Patanjali spokesperson said it will comply with the court's order.

Court papers show Patanjali last month filed an "unqualified apology" for the ads to the judges, with its lawyers again seeking forgiveness during Tuesday's hearing. The judges however were upset the company's written apology described some of Indian drug laws as "archaic".

"Shall we assume that every act that is archaic should not be (enforced)?" Justice Kohli said. "Your apology is not persuading this court. We think it's more of a lip service."

Ramdev has a huge following in India and offers yoga and ayurvedic cures for many illnesses through his TV shows.

He has often faced the ire of doctors and activists who accuse the firm of making incorrect assertions about medicinal efficacy, an allegation he denies.

Ramdev and Balkrishna must again appear before judges on Apr 10, the court said.