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HC takes cognisance of ads offering miraculous cures
The Madras High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the issue as to whether advertisements relating to permanent and miraculous cure by some persons, hospitals and healthcare institutions were per se illegal and against the Practitioners of Indian Medicine (Standards of Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Code of Ethics) Regulations, 1982.
A division bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad took stock of the issue following a plea moved by a woman, whose 16-year-old daughter had died at Herbo Care Hospital in Erode after being treated for weight loss. She wanted action against television channels, print media and radio channels from carrying advertisements by doctors and hospitals to commercially promote their medical practice.
The bench held that personal grievances could not be allowed to be vindicated in a public interest writ petition, but added, “In the light of the response from various authorities on the allegation of violation of professional conduct and code of ethics meant for practitioners of Indian Medicine, we deem it fit to take up this writ petition, as a suo motu public interest litigation.”
As per the proceedings, while the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had stated in response to the petitioner that advertisement by medical professionals/hospitals per se was not in contravention of ASCI code – unless the advertisement is misleading. But the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) noted that quacks without proper medical education and registration appear in television and promise miracle cure, and cheat many poor and innocent people. The council urged television channels not to telecast any programme both quacks and qualified/registered doctors, as per the prescribed code of ethics.
Following this, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (Ayush) too had written a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to act against the channels broadcasting these advertisements.
Also, recording the communication sent by Ayush to the Commissioner, Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy, Government of Tamil Nadu, to conduct an inquiry into the alleged misleading advertisements by Herbo Care and to file an FIR against the alleged defaulter, the bench said, “Letters have been issued by the competent councils to all the television channels in Tamil Nadu as well as to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, to stall such advertisements. Hence, we deem it fit to issue notice to respondents to answer as to what further action has been take, on the request made by the Council.”
The bench also asked whether ASCI can still allow such advertisements when the statutory authority has observed that there was violation of code of medical ethics. “Going through the material on record, we are of the view that what is prima facie against the code of medical ethics cannot be permitted to be published or broadcast,” the court held. The plea is set to be taken up for further hearing on March 27, when Ayush, CCIM and ASCI are expected to submit theirreplies.