The Delhi high court Thursday granted time to Ramdev to come up with an appropriate and acceptable clarification on the use of Coronil to settle the ongoing case filed by several doctors' associations accusing him of spreading misinformation and making unsubstantiated claims of the Patanjali product being a cure for Covid-19.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said that he was not “comfortable” with the present draft clarification given by the yoga guru, remarking that it seemed “more like a pat on the back” and a justification.
Suggesting Ramdev not to “mince words and say that Coronil is not a cure for Covid-19”, the judge said that the “words have to express the thought and not conceal it”.
In the draft clarification presented to the court, Ramdev said that Coronil, apart from being an immunity booster, was a supplementary measure for the management of Covid-19.
“I am still thinking if it's possible to come up with a fair and square (clarification)…. I am not comfortable with the draft. The whole drift seems to be wrong. The whole drift seems to be to justify,” said Justice Bhambhani.
“The way it is drafted, if there is bona fide thought, it is concealed,” he added.
The court said that the matter has acquired the “element of urgency ” on account of the increased number of Covid-19 cases and that any confusion with regards to the use of Coronil deserves to be addressed and listed the case for consideration on August 17.
Several doctors' associations moved the high court last year, alleging 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 while claiming that Coronil was a cure.
Senior advocate Akhil Sibal, appearing for the associations, objected to the draft clarification and said that “every statement is factually wrong”. He submitted that it should be clarified that Coronil was not a medicine for treatment for Covid-19 or its cure and that it was an immunity booster.
Senior advocate PV Kapur, appearing for Ramdev, said that he was “open to modification” in the clarification but his “nose should not be rubbed in the mud” and that the statements against allopathic doctors have already been withdrawn.
He asserted that Ramdev was entitled to publicise the drug as a treatment for Covid -19 in terms of the approval given by the ministry concerned and nothing was on record to show any harm done by his statements.
“Not a single document is on record to show that anybody has suffered. There is no vaccine hesitancy. Two crore people have taken the vaccine... Treatment is being done. If there was a disparaging statement made vis a vis allopathic doctors, that has been withdrawn and apologised for,” the senior lawyer for Ramdev said.
“We have clearly omitted the word cure from the entire statement that we have now placed… The ministry says you will not advertise it as a cure for Covid-19 on the cover. And we are not advertising it as a cure,” he added.
The court said that as far as public perception is concerned, nobody was going by what the ministry has said and the present clarification was not in the nature of a withdrawal.
“This seems to be more like a pat on the back. This is like a disclaimer rather than a clarification. The point is... you gave the public two impressions -- one is that allopathic doctors don't have a cure, they are themselves dying of the disease, and two, that Coronil is a cure,” the judge said.
Stating that it was exploring a settlement in the case, the court took on record Kapur's assurance that he would “make another attempt to come up with an appropriate and acceptable draft clarification that plaintiffs may consider for acceptance”.
“In order to afford the parties to attempt a mutually acceptable clarification, in the light of ingredients sought to be incorporated in the communication sent by the plaintiffs, renotify on August 17,” said the court as it added that if there is agreed clarification, it would hear the case on merits.
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; Resident Doctors' Association, Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, Meerut, and Telangana Junior Doctors' Association, Hyderabad had moved the high court last year against Ramdev and others.
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.