Social media influencers and celebrities are also liable if they endorse products or services featured in misleading advertisements, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah made the observations verbally as part of the proceedings in the contempt case against Patanjali co-founder yoga guru Ramdev and Managing Director Balkrishna for publishing misleading advertisements in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Objectionable Advertisements Act.

The court cited the guidelines issued in June 2022 by the Central Consumer Protection Authority that requires influencers to be transparent about paid endorsements.

The consumer rights body is a regulatory authority set up under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Act provides for the protection of the interests of the consumers.

One of the guidelines, mentioned by the court, asks celebrities to take responsibility for advertisements that are meant to appeal to or use children, reported Bar and Bench. Another guideline refers to duties of manufacturers, service providers and advertising agencies to ensure that the trust of the consumer is not abused or exploited due to lack of knowledge or experience.

The court also mentioned guideline 13 that requires celebrities to take due responsibility for endorsing advertisements and have adequate information or experience of the product.

The bench said that advertisers, advertising agencies and endorsers are equally responsible for issuing or appearing in misleading advertisements.

“Endorsements by public figures, influencers, celebrities etc. go a long way in promoting a product and it is imperative for them to act with responsibility when endorsing any product in the course of advertisements,” it observed.

Social media influencers and celebrities should refrain from abusing the trust that the public have in them, the court said. They must also ensure that they comply with the Central Consumer Protection Authority when endorsing products, the court said, adding that the guidelines and other provisions of the Act were put in place to ensure that a consumer is aware of the products that they purchase.

The bench also passed an interim order on Tuesday directing television broadcasters and print media to file self-declaration forms before airing or publishing advertisements on their platforms, stating that they conform to the current legislation in India, Bar and Bench reported.

While television broadcasters can file the form on Broadcast Seva portal run by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the court ordered the Centre to set up a new portal within four weeks for advertisements on print media.

The bench will next hear the matter on May 14.

After the court’s orders on April 16, Patanjali Ayurved’s co-founders had apologised for the “mistake of publishing advertisements and holding a press conference” even after it assured the court that it would cease to promote products making dubious claims.

Also read: A brief history of Patanjali’s dangerous claims