The Delhi High Court Friday gave yoga guru Ramdev a week to reply to an application by doctors’ associations for instituting a lawsuit against him for his contentious statements on allopathy during the pandemic.
The lawsuit falls under Section 91 of the Code of Civil Procedure that deals with “public nuisance or any other wrongful act affecting or likely to affect the public”. It can be instituted only by an Advocate General or with leave from a court.
The 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 his “sustained and mala fide misinformation campaign” against allopathy and doctors practicing in the field.
The doctors’ associations were represented by Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal.
Justice C Hari Shankar Friday said that committing a wrongful act in itself would not justify the invocation of Section 91 unless it was shown that the act affects the public. “Which means you will have to have solid evidence that it is actually affecting the public or you will have to show that it is likely to affect the public,” added the court.
The court said that there was also a question of individual discretion of the person on the street when it comes to choosing a medicine. A court cannot judicially give a finding on whether a form of medicine, such as homeopathy, actually works or not, it added.
“At what stage can you say that it is actually likely to affect the public. Suppose it is a case where it is left to the individual discretion. I make a statement that I have a medicine but it is the individual discretion of the man on the street whether he wants to follow my statement and go by medicine or not go by my medicine. Suppose it is an absolute discretion, can you say that my statement is likely to affect the public merely because some people follow what I have said and take my medicine. Does it come within the parameters of the expression ‘likely to affect the public’,” Justice Shankar said.
The suit alleges that Ramdev had misled and misrepresented 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 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. The case will be heard on August 10.
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