Supreme Court Denies Acceptance of Ramdev’s Apology in Contempt Case

The judiciary’s patience with high-profile figures like the co-founder of Patanjali, Baba Ramdev, and its managing director, Acharya Balkrishna, appears to be wearing thin. On a recent court date, the Supreme Court made clear its stance by refusing to accept their unconditional apology. This came after Ramdev and Balkrishna stood in alleged violation of an undertaking not to advertise certain medical products, an assurance they had given to the court back in November 2023.

The situation escalated when the Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Patanjali Ayurved and Balkrishna on February 27. By the time they appeared in court, the judges were evidently disenchanted with their actions. In what seemed to be a critique of Ramdev’s sincerity, Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah expressed to senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi that an apology that springs from being cornered lacks genuineness. The judges underscored that such defiance of the court’s undertaking was not accidental but calculated and deliberate.

Fueling the court’s frustration, Justice Amanullah highlighted Ramdev’s blatant disregard for his promise. He pointed out that Ramdev had acted in contravention of the agreement not once, but twice – the first instance being when he conducted a press conference the very next day after giving his word to the court, and the second, amid the hearing of the contempt itself.

Despite clear evidence against them, the acknowledgment of wrongdoing from Ramdev and his associate only surfaced when their court appearance became unavoidable. “It was only they were summoned to appear in the court, when the writing was plain on the wall. They relented,” remarked Justice Amanullah, clearly dissatisfied with the belated show of remorse.

The criticism did not end with Patanjali’s leadership, as the Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority also found itself in the hot seat for its inaction. The Authority had notably failed to prevent the publications and advertisements in question, prompting the Bench to question why they should not face severe repercussions. “Why should we not come down like a ton of bricks on your officers? They have been filibustering,” Justice Kohli articulated, showcasing the court’s readiness for stringent measures.

The Bench portrayed the assurances of the State Licensing Authority and the apologies from Ramdev and Balkrishna as empty gestures, unworthy of any credence. Justice Amanullah even went so far as to suggest that such disregard for the court’s directives makes a mockery of the judicial system, promoting a public perception that the judges are aloof and disconnected from reality – residing in an ‘ivory tower’.

Adding to its stringent reprimands, the Supreme Court rebuked an officer from the State Licensing Authority present in the audacious interpretation that the agency could only issue warnings rather than take legal action because the relevant law — the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act — was purportedly “suspended,” following a Bombay High Court ruling. This excuse was soundly dismissed by the judges who insisted that an FIR be filed promptly.

Justice Kohli admonished the delaying tactics of the concerned Licensing Authority officer, making the point that the public suffers when subjected to misleading claims about medical cures. The judges insisted on accountability, refuting the idea that one person should receive mercy at the expense of the general public who have been potentially deceived by baseless assertions of medical benefits.

Characteristic of the severe tenor of the proceedings, Justice Kohli compared the progression from what he interpreted as arrogant defiance to complete capitulation on the part of the proposed contemnors – a saga of hubris that might have finally met its match in the Supreme Court’s unwavering resolve. This confrontation underscores the broader tensions between commercial interests, public welfare, and judicial oversight in India – a drama that reflects the ongoing struggle to balance entrepreneurship and legal compliance within the nation’s burgeoning health and wellness sector.

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