The Delhi High Court on Thursday said yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s clarification on Coronil “seems to be more like a pat” on his back, while granting him another opportunity to come with “an appropriate and acceptable draft clarification” for settlement of the case filed against him by various doctors’ associations.
The court said that the matter has reacquired the element of urgency in wake of the rise in the number of coronavirus cases and any confusion deserves to be addressed at the soonest. Listing the suit for consideration on August 17, the court said it would proceed to hear the matter if no agreed clarification is brought about by the next date.
Hearing the suit of a group of doctors’ associations against Ramdev for his statements against allopathy during the Covid-19 pandemic and for claiming that Coronil is cure against Covid-19, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani, after reading the draft statement prepared by Ramdev’s counsel, said, “This seems to be more like a pat on the back, on the defendant’s back. This is like a disclaimer rather than a clarification”
The court said that the draft of the clarification seems to justify Ramdev’s statements and asked his counsel whether he can say “something to the effect that Coronil is not a cure”. “Don’t mince words. Say Coronil is not a cure for Covid-19, it is prophylactic,” said the bench, adding, “The idea is to be clear in your communication. Words have to express the thought, not conceal it. The way this is drafted, the thought, if there is bonafide thought, it is being concealed”.
In July, Ramdev and other defendants had told the court that they are willing to offer the requisite clarifications that would address the issues raised in the suit. The court had asked the parties to come up with a statement that would later be published in the media. On Thursday, the court was told the clarification drafted by Ramdev’s side is not agreeable to the doctors’ associations.
In the draft read before the court, Ramdev said that in recent times there has been an “unending speculation, sustained misinformation and misinterpretation and misunderstanding” about his statement regarding Coronil. “It is categorically and expressly clarified that the product Coronil apart from being an immunity booster, especially against respiratory tract involvement and for all types of fever, is additionally an evidence-based supporting measure for management of Covid-19,” he proposed to say in it.
Ramdev also proposed to say that the product was launched “after strict adherence to the notifications” issued by Centre and “necessary licence” was also granted for it. “In view of the same, Coronil was tested on symptomatic Covid-19 patients which resulted in successful recovery of all such patients. It is in this backdrop Coronil was said to be a cure. However, it was later clarified that Coronil is only a supplementary measure for Covid-19,” he said in the proposed clarification.
Ramdev also proposed to state that he has utmost respect for the doctors and medical community “which is reflected through his public statements”. His counsel told the court that he has already apologised for the statements against doctors.
Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal, representing the doctors’ unions, submitted that their suggestion was that Ramdev should state that Coronil is not a cure for Covid-19 and is not a medicine for its treatment. Sibal further said that they want Ramdev to say that Coronil is only an immunity booster that may be used as a supporting measure against Covid-19 and it was never his intention to discourage vaccination or allopathic treatment for Covid-19.
While rejecting the clarification drafted by Ramdev’s counsel and pressing for adjudication of the case, Sibal said that the justification in the draft is false. “There are ethical concerns. It has to be licensed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. That authority says it is not licensed as a treatment for Covid,” he added.
Senior Advocate P V Kapur, representing Ramdev, termed the suit a “motivated litigation” and said “there has to be somebody financing this litigation”. “Why don’t we ask these young doctors where they are working?” he said.
Objecting to the submission, Sibal said Kapur was resorting to “vague imputations” and asked him to argue the facts.
Submitting that there was nothing on record to say that anybody has suffered because of his statement, Ramdev’s counsel also said that there has been no vaccine hesitancy in the country. “We are clarifying that it is not a cure. It is for management of Covid. Ayush ministry has accepted that it is for management and treatment of Covid. Why should we not be entitled to say that?” Kapur said.
Residents Doctors’ Association of All India Institute of Medical Science, Rishikesh and other unions representing the medicos in the lawsuit have sought a permanent and mandatory injunction against Ramdev’s “sustained and mala fide misinformation campaign” during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic against allopathy and doctors practising in the field.
The suit filed by the medicos alleges that Ramdev was misleading and misrepresenting to the public by claiming that allopathy was responsible for the deaths of several people infected by Covid-19, and insinuating that allopathic doctors were causing deaths of thousands of patients.
“(Ramdev) is a highly influential person and has a very large reach, with followers numbering several lacs (lakhs) on social media, and accordingly statements made by him have the potential to directly influence his followers into acting in terms of his directions,” it states.
The associations have also contended such “misinformation campaign” during the ongoing pandemic has the propensity to divert people from allopathic treatments, which would be violative of the right to health of people in India.