Making profit neither public nuisance nor wrongful act: HC on PIL against Ramdev promoting Coronil
New Delhi: Commercial gain or making profit is neither a public nuisance nor a wrongful act, remarked Delhi High Court on Monday while hearing a suit filed by several doctors' associations against Yoga guru Ramdev for allegedly spreading misinformation against allopathy and in turn promoting his immunity booster medicine Coronil amid Covid-19 pandemic.Three Resident Doctors' Association of...
New Delhi: Commercial gain or making profit is neither a public nuisance nor a wrongful act, remarked Delhi High Court on Monday while hearing a suit filed by several doctors' associations against Yoga guru Ramdev for allegedly spreading misinformation against allopathy and in turn promoting his immunity booster medicine Coronil amid Covid-19 pandemic.
Three Resident Doctors' Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Rishikesh, Patna and Bhubaneshwar as well as Association of Resident Doctors, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh; Union of Resident Doctors of Punjab (URDP); Resident Doctors' Association, Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, Meerut, and Telangana Junior Doctors' Association, Hyderabad had moved the high court earlier this year.
They alleged that Ramdev was misleading and misrepresenting to the public at large that allopathy was responsible for the deaths of several people infected by COVID-19, and insinuating that allopathic doctors were causing the deaths of the patients.
Senior counsel Akhil Sibal, representing the associations, said that amid a pandemic, the Yoga Gugu made unsubstantiated claims on Coronil being a cure for COVID-19, contrary to the licence granted to the drug for merely being an "Immuno-booster".
The senior counsel claimed that Ramdev's statements were not "bonafide opinions" but were made for marketing and commercial use.
"This is a person with no degree. He is dispensing medical opinion in a regulated field, endangering life amid a pandemic. People are gullible. He is a repeat offender. He claimed Yoga can cure AIDS and cancer. You can't just say things and dupe people. The commercial speech comes with some responsibility," he said.
"Everyone has a right to commercial gain. Profit is not really a ground. You have to make out a case for public nuisance. Making a profit is not a public nuisance," the court observed during the hearing.
To this, Sibal responded,
"The idea is nobody says don't indulge in commerce. This is not merely a case of somebody exercising a bona fide opinion about something. This is somebody who is marketing a drug for commercial use having a two fold objective. He says allopathy is killing you and here I have a cure for you. He says I have cured 90 percent of people, allopathy might have cured 10 percent so you come to me."
Sibal also submitted that despite the Government of India saying that Ramdev cannot make statements to the public that he has license of Coronil as a treatment for Covid-19, he continued to give an assurance that the tablets do provide a cure.
Live Law reports that placing reliance on a document dated June 12, 2020 given to Divya pharmacy for three items including coronil tablets, Sibal submitted thus:
"Nowhere in this there is any indication that this is a medicine for corona or cure of corona. Its only a manufacturing license as drug which is required by law."
Sibal also submitted that the Government officially said that Baba Ramdev only has license as an immuno booster and not as an absolute cure of Covid-19.
On this, Justice C Hari Shankar noted,
"You tell me what has he done and what exactly oral statements or documents has he… You have set out the statements. I have got the hand of what according to you are the infractions. You're saying he has violated the protocol, notifications etc. but by what?"
The court on Monday said that prima facie, a suit filed by several doctors' associations against Yoga guru Ramdev for allegedly spreading misinformation against allopathy amid the Covid-19 pandemic deserves consideration and cannot be "thrown out" at the first stage.
Justice Shankar said at the present stage, it only needs "to see if allegations in the plaint make out a case to be entertained".
"The allegations may be right or maybe wrong. He may say he did not say any such thing... It needs to be looked into," said the judge.
"Prime facie, it appears that the present suit can't be thrown out at the threshold without granting leave to institute the suit," said the court which had earlier sought Ramdev's stand on the institution of the proceeding.
The court listed the matter on October 27 to enable the counsel for Ramdev to make his submissions, reports PTI.
In their plea filed through advocate Harshavardhan Kotla, the associations had submitted that the yoga guru, who is a highly influential person, was sowing doubts in the minds of the general public concerning the safety and efficacy of not only allopathic treatments but also COVID-19 vaccines.
The plea alleged that the misinformation campaign was nothing but an advertisement and marketing strategy to further the sales of the product sold by Ramdev, including Coronil which claims to be an alternative treatment for COVID-19.
The other defendants in the plea include Acharya Balkrishna and Patanjali Ayurveda.
The court had on June 3 issued summons to Ramdev on a plea by the Delhi Medical Association (DMA) in connection with his alleged statements against allopathic medicines and claims regarding Patanjali's Coronil kit.
The court had refused to restrain Ramdev at that stage saying the allopathic profession was not so fragile.
It had, however, orally asked Ramdev's counsel to tell him not to make any provocative statements.
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