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Read full post: Patanjali's Legal Scrutiny

Patanjali's Legal Scrutiny

The legal battle between the SC of India and the FMCG-Ayurveda giant Patanjali underscores the importance of ethical practices and scientific validation within the Ayurveda community to maintain credibility and public trust.


Defending Tradition vs Truth: Patanjali vs Indian Medical Association’s Legal Battle Over Ayurvedic Claims


Baba Ramdev: 

Baba Ramdev, born Ramkishan Yadav, is a prominent Indian yoga guru known for popularizing yoga among the masses through his mass yoga camps and television programs. Born in Haryana, India, he studied Indian scripture, yoga, and Sanskrit in various gurukuls (traditional Indian schools). He co-founded the Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. with his colleague, Acharya Balakrishna, and through this venture, they entered into various sectors including personal care and food products, promoting products based on Ayurvedic principles. Baba Ramdev has been a significant figure in advocating for Hindu social and political causes, and his teachings emphasize the health benefits of yoga and Ayurveda. He has also been involved in various social, political, and economic campaigns, such as anti-corruption and promoting indigenous products over foreign brands.

Acharya Balakrishna:

Acharya Balakrishna, born in Haridwar, India, is a close associate of Baba Ramdev and serves as the Managing Director of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. He holds a degree in Ayurveda from the Sampurnanand Sanskrit University in Varanasi, India but the validity of this has also come into question. Nevertheless, Balakrishna has been instrumental in the formulation and development of Patanjali’s range of Ayurvedic products. His expertise in Ayurveda has led to significant contributions to the field, including research and development of new products and therapies. Balakrishna is also known for his philanthropic efforts and his role in promoting Ayurveda globally through Patanjali’s extensive network.

Together, Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna have turned Patanjali Ayurved into a major player in the Indian FMCG sector, championing the cause of traditional Indian herbal products and Ayurvedic practices.

Legal Situation:

The ongoing legal case against Patanjali Ayurveda, has been a significant focal point in India. Initiated by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in August 2022, the case accuses Patanjali and Ramdev of making false claims against evidence-based modern medicine and its practitioners. The controversy largely revolves around misleading advertisements, including claims about the effectiveness of Ayurvedic products against chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as misleading information regarding COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The Supreme Court of India has taken a firm stance in this case. Patanjali Ayurved has faced severe rebukes for violating advertising standards, particularly those laid out in the Drugs & Other Magical Remedies Act, 1954 (DOMA), and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. These laws prohibit misleading advertisements that suggest unverified medicinal benefits of products. The court has temporarily banned Patanjali from advertising some products, focusing on ensuring that consumers are not misled by unfounded medical claims. This legal battle underscores the importance of truthful advertising and the need for regulatory compliance in promoting medical products. A recent court session also highlighted the ongoing scrutiny of Patanjali's actions, with the Supreme Court questioning the sincerity of the apologies offered by its founders.

Timeline of the legal case

Here's a timeline of key events related to the legal case against Patanjali Ayurveda initiated by the Indian Medical Association (IMA):

  • June 2020: Patanjali Ayurved introduced Coronil in June, 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The product was promoted by Baba Ramdev, claiming it was a cure for the coronavirus. Coronil was said to be made from a combination of ingredients known in Ayurveda to boost immunity, such as Mulethi, Giloy, Tulsi, and Ashwagandha.
  • July 2022: Patanjali publishes advertisements claiming that their products can cure various chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These advertisements also include claims about COVID-19 that were contested by medical authorities.
  • August 2022: The IMA files a petition against Patanjali and its brand ambassador, Baba Ramdev, citing misleading advertisements and derogatory statements against evidence-based modern medicine and its practitioners. The petition highlights the misuse of media to spread misinformation regarding allopathic treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
  • Early 2023: Preliminary hearings and responses are exchanged, with the Supreme Court of India beginning to review the claims and evidence presented by both sides.
  • February 27, 2024: The Supreme Court delivers a significant ruling, imposing a temporary ban on Patanjali from advertising specific products that claim to treat diseases as specified under the DOMA and CPA. The court also warns against making negative statements about conventional medicine.
  • March 19, 2024: The Supreme Court schedules a follow-up hearing to review the progress and adherence to its orders regarding misleading advertisements and public statements.
  • April 16, 2024: The Supreme Court engages directly with Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna to assess the sincerity of their public apologies and their commitment to ceasing misleading advertisements. The court underscores the need for genuine corrective actions.
  • April 23, 2024: A subsequent hearing is scheduled where the court will continue its scrutiny of Patanjali's compliance with the law and ethical advertising standards.

Where are we today?

Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna offered an apology during their interactions with the Supreme Court of India. Their apology came under scrutiny as the court evaluated the sincerity and genuineness behind their expressions of regret for misleading advertisements and statements that disparaged modern medicine and the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. During the court proceedings, the justices were not fully convinced by the apologies, emphasizing the need for Patanjali to demonstrate concrete actions towards correcting their misrepresentations. The court highlighted the importance of taking responsibility for past actions and not just offering apologies. The Supreme Court's response suggests that a mere apology would not suffice to resolve the issues raised by the Indian Medical Association regarding the false claims made by Patanjali about the efficacy of their products against various diseases and their criticisms of allopathic medicine. This ongoing scrutiny and the court’s demand for more substantial corrective measures indicate a critical stance towards ensuring that public health communications are accurate and responsible, especially from such influential entities. Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna must demonstrate genuine corrective actions and align with legal advertising practices.

Perspective and call to action

Patanjali Ayurved has played a significant role in promoting Ayurveda globally, bringing ancient Indian holistic health practices into modern relevance. The company, under the leadership of Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna, has been instrumental in advocating for natural and herbal products, aligning with India's cultural heritage and the growing global trend towards natural health products. Patanjali has contributed economically by creating jobs and supporting local agriculture through its extensive use of herbal ingredients sourced from within India.

However, the recent developments involving Patanjali underscores the imperative for the Ayurveda community at large to embrace practices that ensure trust and adherence to ethical standards. For Ayurveda to grow and be recognized as a valuable and credible contributor to global health and wellness, the Community needs to pay attention and focus on a few major initiatives. These initiatives aim to guide the community in upholding the dignity of Ayurvedic traditions while navigating the modern health landscape responsibly.

In the spirit of fostering trust and upholding the integrity of the Ayurveda, here are some recommendations that could be beneficial for Ayurvedic practitioners and organizations:

  1. Strengthen Scientific Validation:
    • Engage in or sponsor research studies that explore the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments. This will provide evidence-based backing for Ayurvedic practices, products and claims, enhancing credibility among the wider medical community and the public.
  2. Focus on Compliance and Review Processes:
    • Establish a robust compliance framework that includes thorough review processes for all promotional and informational materials to ensure they adhere to legal standards and ethical advertising practices. This includes vetting claims with scientific evidence and legal guidelines before public dissemination.
  3. Enhance Transparency:
    • Improve transparency by disclosing the scientific basis of product claims more openly. This could involve publishing research or collaborating with academic institutions to validate the product's health benefits.
  4. Engage in Public Education:
    • Initiate educational campaigns to inform the public about Ayurveda's principles and practices, clearly distinguishing between general wellness advice and specific medical treatments. These campaigns should aim to educate without making overstated claims about curing diseases.
  5. Collaborate with Modern Medicine Healthcare Professionals:
    • To bridge the gap between traditional Ayurvedic practices and modern medicine, we should foster partnerships with medical communities, including conducting joint research projects and participating in medical conferences to build trust and credibility.
  6. Commit to Ethical Marketing:
    • Revising marketing strategies to focus on the holistic and preventive aspects of Ayurveda rather than curative claims could help maintain the market presence responsibly. This includes avoiding comparisons that disparage other medical practices.
  7. Implement Community Feedback Mechanisms:
    • Establishing mechanisms to receive and incorporate feedback from consumers and health practitioners can help the Ayurveda community stay aligned with consumer protection laws and societal expectations.

These steps could help not only comply with the legal regulations but also enhance brand integrity and consumer trust, ultimately contributing to the sustainable growth of the Ayurvedic industry globally.

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