The ministry of health and family welfare has drafted a Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which increases the number of diseases and disorders under the Act
With an aim to combat misleading advertisements, the health ministry has proposed legislative changes of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50 lakh for misleading advertisements promoting hair loss, fair skin and sexual performance, among other conditions. The ministry has released draft of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to respond to concerns about misleading advertisements and the need for the law to keep pace with changes in technology. The draft has expanded the definition of an advertisement under the law to cover electronic media, the Internet and websites.
As per the draft, the ministry proposes that the first- time convicted should be penalised to spend upto two years in jail and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh as opposed to the existing provisions of six months’ jail time and an unspecified fine. The bill has proposed five years’ jail time and a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh for a second conviction, which currently carries penalties of a one-year jail term and an unspecified fine.
The new draft has expanded the list of disorders from 54 to 78 to include the prohibition of advertisements for treatment of AIDS, encephalitis, fairness of skin, improvement in height of children or adults, and premature greying of hair, among others. The health ministry released the draft bill on Monday and has sought suggestions, comments or objections from the public for 45 days.
The proposal for the amendments comes after the Advertising Standards Council of India, in industry watchdog, aired its concerns regarding the misleading advertisements on the basis of consumer complaints, for months. The ASCI in its periodical reports has listed dozens of misleading advertisements that violate the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act. These advertisements have made claims related to asthma, cancer, diabetes, increased height, obesity and sexual performance among other health and cosmetic conditions.
The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954, is intended to prevent gullible or vulnerable members of the public from being exploited through advertisements for drugs or cosmetic products for certain health or cosmetic disorders.