Indian state says yoga guru misled public with COVID, other cures

Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev gestures as talks to media after a news conference in New Delhi

By Arpan Chaturvedi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian state has accused yoga guru Baba Ramdev of criminal misconduct for promoting his traditional ayurvedic medicine as a cure for COVID-19 because it was only approved as an "immunity booster", a case filing reviewed by Reuters showed.

Ramdev, whose yoga cures and ayurvedic products have made him popular in India, the United States and other countries, misled the public with claims his medicines could cure other diseases such as cardiac disorder and cancer, the filing showed.

Ramdev violated Indian drug law "by misleading the general public", according to an April 16 filing which is not public and was submitted to a local court in the northern Haridwar city by a drugs regulator.

A spokesperson for Ramdev and his firm, Patanjali Ayurveda, denied allegations of making misleading claims on COVID-19 medication and said that they would clarify that to the court. He did not comment on allegations related to other medicines.

The regulator in its filing is seeking a punishment for Ramdev that can extend up to six months in jail if convicted.

The new case in Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand - where Ramdev and his firms are based - is the latest challenge for the yoga teacher who has appeared on TV shows offering yoga cures, consumer and health products and has millions of followers around the world.

India's Supreme Court has criticised Ramdev in a separate case for publishing misleading advertisements of his medicines, and has refused to accept his apologies.

In the latest case in Haridwar, the regulator told the court that during the pandemic, Ramdev promoted his product "Coronil" as a cure even though "permission was obtained" for it only as "an immunity booster", the filing shows.

Coronil was launched amid much fanfare in 2020 and endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's then health minister on stage during an event with Ramdev in 2021.

"This is not only control, this is cure," Ramdev said at one of the Coronil launch events then, according to India Today. He added that it had a "100% recovery rate within seven days and 0% death rate."

The Haridwar case filing also accuses Ramdev of misleading the public in a recent 2024 advertisement for a product named "Divya Cystogrit" which the regulator says was marketed as "Cure Cancer with Cystogrit".

The case will be taken up by a judge on Friday.

(Reporting by Arpan Chaturvedi; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Jacqueline Wong)