The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to restrain yoga instructor Ramdev from making any statements against allopathy or in favour of Patanjali’s Coronil kit, saying he was entitled to his opinion under free speech laws.
A single-judge bench of Justice C Hari Shankar was hearing a suit filed by Delhi Medical Association (DMA), accusing Ramdev of falsely representing Coronil as a cure for Covid-19 and spreading misinformation about modern medicine, or allopathy. The court issued summons, advised Ramdev not to speak about the efficacy of modern medicine until the next hearing, but refused to pass a restraining order without going through his formal reply.
It said that “considerable time has passed since the passing of allegedly injurious statements” and added that “the allopathic profession was not so fragile”.
Ramdev’s counsel, senior advocate Rajiv Nayyar, told the court that his client has already retracted his remarks made against doctors on May 22. “Then tell your client to not make any statements…I have no objection to him making statements on Coronil… ” the court said as Nayyar urged the judge to not make this a part of the order. Ramdev has three weeks to file his reply.
The court said that DMA should file a public interest litigation instead of a suit, and that the yoga guru’s statements are covered under freedom of speech and expression.
“If I feel some science is fake…Tomorrow I feel homeopathy is fake…Do you mean they will file a suit against me?…It is public opinion. I do not think your allopathic profession is so fragile,” the court said. “It is an opinion…. Any case founded on prayer for blocking statements has to be tested on (the) anvil of Article 19(1)(a)… There is a right…Terminology may be offensive,” the court observed.
Senior advocate Rajiv Datta, appearing for DMA, argued that Ramdev’s statement affects doctors as Coronil does not cure Covid-19, and it is misleading. He claimed a token damage of ₹1 from him saying that it was a suit for civil rights of the doctors.
The judge said he was “least concerned” with the association’s argument that Ramdev was a powerful person with a huge following. “Ramdev is a person who doesn’t have faith in allopathy. He believes everything can be cured by yoga and Ayurveda. He may be right or wrong. … You people should rather be spending time to find a cure for the pandemic instead of wasting the court’s time,” the judge remarked.
Dutta also submitted that the Ayush ministry had made a statement that Coronil was not a cure for Covid-19 and could not be advertised as such, and had also asked Patanjali to give details, after which Ramdev said that it was an immunity booster.
DMA’s counsel further claimed that Patanjali had made ₹25 crore from Coronil sales after it was touted as a cure for Covid. To this the court said, “Is he (Ramdev) to be blamed for people buying Coronil?”