Both Celebrities and Influencers to be liable for Deceptive Advertisements

In today’s media-saturated environment, consumers are increasingly susceptible to external influences disseminated through the media,  with celebrities often leading the charge in shaping consumer behavior. Whether through social media platforms, traditional advertising channels, or product endorsements, the impact of celebrity-focused advertising extends beyond mere entertainment and impacts consumer decisions.

A recent direction by the Supreme Court addressed concerns regarding misleading advertisements in the case of Indian Medical Association & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.1 By way of a Writ Petition filed in August 2022, the Plaintiff, the Indian Medical Association (“IMA“), alleged that Patanjali Ayurved Limited (“Patanjali“) disseminated misleading advertisements and made disparaging remarks about allopathic medicine, thereby violating applicable laws on misleading advertisements. In previous orders, Court highlighted the responsibility of both advertisers and endorsers in instances of misleading advertising. 


During previous proceedings in the matter, the IMA argued that Patanjali, and its figurehead Baba Ramdev, had made unproven claims in advertisements and press events, suggesting Patanjali products could permanently cure conditions including diabetes, thyroid, blood pressure and asthma. The IMA claimed that these advertisements not only undermined medical science but also violated the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954 (“DOMA“), and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (“CPA“).

The DOMA prohibits the publication of any advertisement of a drug if it misrepresents the drug’s true nature, makes false claims, or is otherwise deceitful or misleading in a significant manner. A violation of the DOMA is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a monetary fine, or both.

The CPA defines a ‘misleading advertisement’ as one that inaccurately describes a product or service, provides false assurances, or has the potential to mislead consumers regarding its characteristics, quantity, quality, or relevance. Additionally, it includes any express or implied representation that constitutes an unfair trade practice or intentionally withholds important information. The CPA designates the Central Consumer Protection Authority (“CCPA“) as the authority to adjudicate and oversee matters concerning consumer rights violations, unfair trade practices, and false or deceptive advertisements that are detrimental to public and consumer interests.

In November 2023, Patanjali assured the Court that it would withdraw any advertisements that presented false claims about its products. Despite this assurance, it was found that Patanjali continued to run these misleading advertisements. As a result, the Court summoned Baba Ramdev and Patanjali’s managing director, Acharya Balkrishna, in contempt proceedings. In response, both issued public apologies for failing to comply with the Court’s orders. However, the Court rejected the apology affidavit submitted in this regard.

The Supreme Court thereafter suo moto directed Union Ministries and authorities to take action against Fast-moving Consumer Goods (“FMCG“) companies involved in false and misleading advertising campaigns.


On May 7, 2024, the Supreme Court, comprising of a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, delivered a warning message to social media influencers, celebrities, and public figures, criticizing them for endorsing products without fully understanding the potential consequences. Moreover, the Supreme Court stated that celebrities and social media influencers should be equally accountable for endorsing products or services in misleading advertisements.

The Court in order to protect consumer consumers from misleading advertisements issued certain directives including the following:

  • Broadcasters and print media entities were required to file a self-declaration form before airing/printing any advertisements, assuring that such advertisements comply with the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, the Advertising Code issued under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 and other applicable legislations regulating advertisements.
  • Ministries have been directed to set up a specific procedure to encourage consumers to lodge a complaint against misleading advertisements and for the said complaint to be actioned.
  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution was ordered to file a fresh affidavit on action taken by CCPA on false or misleading advertisements, particularly in the food and health sector.


The Supreme Court’s decision ushers in a new dawn, where consumer rights are paramount, and enterprises are required to protect consumer interests while promoting their products and services. While several efforts have been made in the past to bring advertisers, endorsers, celebrities and social media influencers within the fold of misleading advertising regulations, having Courts take cognizance of the issue could help combat non-compliances and promote consumer welfare.

1W.P.(C) 645 of 2022.