Misleading ads case: SC terms IMA president's comments on top court "unacceptable"

Dr R V Asokan
Dr R V Asokan

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as "very, very unacceptable" the statements made by Indian Medical Association (IMA) president R V Asokan targeting the apex court in a recent interview to PTI where he answered questions about Patanjali Ayurved's misleading advertisements case.

Expressing displeasure over Asokan's comments a day before the top court was slated to the hear the matter, a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah sought his response on an application filed by Patanjali Ayurved Ltd.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Patanjali, told the bench that they have filed an application urging the court to take judicial notice of the "wanton and unwarranted comments" made by the IMA president.

"This is a very serious issue. They are trying to divert the course of justice… Your lordships asked one or two queries and see how they are reacting as if nobody can ask anything," Rohatgi said.

Rohatgi said at the last hearing, he had handed over to the court the transcript of the interview which was published in newspapers.

"You can't say you don't know," the bench told the IMA's counsel.

Later during the hearing, when senior advocate P S Patwalia appeared for the IMA, the bench asked him about the comments made by Asokan.

When Patwalia said it was "rather not very fortunate", the bench curtly told him, "You are very mild with your words".

"Your president gave an interview on the eve of the hearing. Why on the eve of hearing?" the bench asked.

Patwalia said he was called for an interview by the Press Trust of India (PTI) on a host of other issues.

"Then what happened, according to me, it was a leading question and he fell into it," he said.

"A doctor falling?" Justice Amanullah said testily.

In an interaction with PTI editors on April 29 for its programme '@4 Parliament Street', the IMA president had said it was "unfortunate" that the Supreme Court criticised the association and also some of the practices of private doctors.

Asokan was replying to a query about the Supreme Court's observations during a hearing on April 23 when it had said while it was pointing one finger at Patanjali, the remaining four fingers were pointed towards IMA.

The "vague and generalised statements", Asokan added, have demoralised private doctors.

"We sincerely believe they need to look at what was the material before them. They perhaps did not consider that this was not the issue that was before them in the court.

"You can say anything but still a majority of doctors are conscientious... practising according to ethics and principles. It does not behove the Supreme Court to take a broadside against the medical profession of the country which, after all, sacrificed so many lives for the Covid war," he had said.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the apex court observed the president of the IMA, which is a petitioner before it in the matter, goes to the press and makes statement in a matter that is sub-judice.

"You are the one coming to the court and saying that the other side are the ones misleading the public by advertisements, running your system of medicine down. What are you doing?" the bench said.

When Patwalia said the IMA president was actually "praising" the apex court's order, the bench said, "We don't want any pat on our back from anybody. We are only doing our job".

"This court is aware of the fact and you should be aware of it that it has broad enough shoulders to handle it all," Justice Kohli said.

"Very, very unacceptable," Justice Amanullah added.

The bench told Patwalia that his reply has failed to convince the court.

Patwalia said the IMA president was "feeling sorry" about it and he has realised that he should have kept his mouth shut.

"We are not concerned about what you told him. We are concerned about what was pointed out by the other side on the last date and your inaction," the bench said.

Patwalia requested the bench to give him time till next week to make amends.

The bench asked the IMA president to respond to Patanjali Ayurved's application and posted the matter for further hearing on May 14.

While hearing the matter on April 30, the apex court had taken a strong note of the comments by the IMA president and warned that there may be "serious consequences".

The apex court is hearing a plea filed in 2022 by the IMA alleging a smear campaign against the Covid vaccination drive and modern systems of medicine like allopathy.

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