Supreme Court Upholds Right to Health: Mandates Disclosure of Product Quality in Advertisements

Mainstream
17-May-2024
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In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the fundamental right to health encompasses consumers' right to be informed about the quality of products offered by manufacturers and advertisers. The decision was made in the case of Indian Medical Association & Anr vs Union of India & Ors.

A Bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah expressed concern over the inadequate implementation of guidelines against misleading advertisements. The Court directed that advertisers and advertising agencies must submit a self-declaration form asserting compliance with the Advertising Code under the Cable Television Networks Rules before any advertisement is printed or displayed. This declaration is to be uploaded on a dedicated portal to be established by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Invoking Article 32 of the Constitution, the Court emphasized, "It is deemed appropriate to invoke the powers vested in this Court for the enforcement of the fundamental right to health that encompasses the right of a consumer to be made aware of the quality of products being offered for sale by manufacturers, service providers, advertisers, and advertising agencies." 

The ruling followed a recent hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, where the Court cautioned that social media influencers and celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements would also be held accountable.

The Court mandated that once the portal is operational, advertisers must begin uploading the self-declaration forms. Proof of uploading these forms must be provided to broadcasters, printers, publishers, TV channels, or electronic media for their records. "No advertisements shall be permitted to run on the relevant channels and/or in the print media/internet without uploading the self-declaration as directed above," the Court ordered, treating these directions as law under Article 141 of the Constitution.

The Court highlighted that existing statutory provisions, rules, regulations, and guidelines aim to protect consumers and ensure they are informed about the products being offered, especially in the food and health sectors. The ruling also urged the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to create a robust mechanism for consumers to lodge complaints and ensure these complaints reach a logical conclusion.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was instructed to submit data on complaints received by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the actions taken, particularly concerning sub-standard food, misbranded food, misleading advertisements, and food containing extraneous matter. The Court noted, "FSSAI is authorized to take action on its own in the event of any such misleading advertisements coming to its notice, without waiting for any complaint to be received."

The order, dated May 7, calls for a comprehensive report on actions taken by FSSAI since 2018, emphasizing the necessity of protecting consumer rights and ensuring the dissemination of accurate product information.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News Writer, MIT ADT University