Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Magic remedies and Indian law

A public interest litigation in Punjab & Haryana High Court is reported to have been filed ‘to curb the menace of tantriks promising magical cures within minutes’ through advertisements in newspapers, television channels and even web sites (The Tribune dated 19th Nov ’08). Are there laws that regulate or prohibit such advertisements? Do such types of objectionable advertisements abound elsewhere outside India?

The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 establishes the Medical Council of India (MCI). The Council has notified Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, and Ethics) Regulations in 2002 which mandates observance of the code of conduct on the pain of suspension or removal of the licence to practice for the breach of its regulations. They include the practice against promising magic remedies and advertisements. To the extent to which the Regulations are directed against practitioners of only the allopaths, it is obvious that we have to look elsewhere for the practitioners of other systems of medicine. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) established by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in March, 1995 gives no similar guidelines.

It is not merely unethical to prescribe a magic remedy; it is illegal under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act passed as early as in 1954. The Act proclaims its avowed object to be to control the advertisement of drugs in certain cases, to prohibit the advertisement for certain purposes of remedies alleged to possess magic qualities and to provide for matters connected therewith. Magic remedy includes ‘a talisman, mantra, kavacha, and any other charm of any kind which is alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings or animals or for affecting or influencing in any way the structure or any organic function of the body of human beings or animals’. Even machines of science or of electric treatment whose magically curative properties are advertised by a person as capable of increasing the sexual virility of a patient is prohibited under the Act. They will be treated as articles intended to influence the organic function of the human body which is prohibited under the Act. A person made an advertisement under the following terms:

New Life, New vigour, New Spirit, New Wave. If you want a cure, see to-day well known world-famous experienced registered Physician. Special diseases such as oldness in youth, all sorts of defects in nerves, or weakness, laziness are treated with full responsibility, with new methods, new machines of science and electric treatment and are cured permanently.

Supreme court held in Zaffar Mohammad alias Z.M. Sarkar v The State of West Bengal (1976) that the advertiser was liable for conviction. No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement referring to any drug in terms which suggest or are calculated to lead to the use of that drug for (a) the procurement of miscarriage in women or prevention of conception in women; or (b) the maintenance or improvements of the capacity of human beings for sexual pleasure; or (c) the correction of menstrual disorder in women; or (d) the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease, disorder or condition in a wide classes of diseases that include cancer, sterility in women, leukoderma and leprosy. A person guilty of the act prohibited shall be punishable after a trial by a Magistrate of First Class (a) in the case of a first conviction, with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both; (b) in the case of a subsequent conviction, with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

The most popular advertisements for cosmetic surgery are posted in popular websites through internet. They offer privacy of one’s own reading room from where the access to medical information may be picked up through a personal computer. Internet auction sites abound with revolting, weird advertisement for sale of human organs that range between testicles to nude autopsy photos of murdered children (Business Week E.Biz, Nov. 20, 2000). Shocking medical items that have been sold or at least offered for bidding on eBay include organs available for transplanting, drug-free urine, and a male testicle. In one instance, a seller offered a "fully functional kidney for sale" on eBay. (The Top Ten Bizarre Online Auctions .) Bidding on the kidney went as high as $ 5.7 million before officials at eBay shut down the auction. Another website auctioned off the ova and sperm of fashion models available for in vitro fertilization, boasted the auction as "Darwin's Natural Selection at its very best," started the bidding at $ 15,000 and received a twenty percent service fee for the sale of the reproductive cells (Telegraph Herald, Oct. 24, 1999, discussing the website www.ronsangels.com).

Though much less widespread than medical information or medical advice websites, several websites have auctioned different types of surgeries. For example, the largest private hospital group in South Africa, Netcare, has auctioned off surgeries such as breast reductions, skin resurfacing and liposuctions, where the "winner" received a recovery stay at a plush Johannesburg hotel (The auction was conducted on www.bidorbuy.co.za). Wellesley College even auctioned off a vasectomy as part of a fundraiser (The Washington Times, Aug. 4, 2000).
The Supreme Court of the United States has held that any governmental attempts to regulate or prohibit information posted on websites that is not defamatory may violate constitutional free speech protections (Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997)), and the Communications Decency Act immunizes from liability websites that merely host or sponsor information provided by others. But in India, with The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 in place, it shall be possible to proscribe and take penal action against objectionable advertisements that guarantee magic remedies. But how many know that such an enactment exists?

1 comment:

S. Subramaniam Balaji said...


The saturated faith healing market of the west has now landed in India and is marketing its fraudulent wares in our country. It has become a big time business that is now reaching even the last Indian through the medium of television. It is high time that the Government acts against these imported impostors or their Indian versions preying on the huge gullible masses. I do not think that the Magic remedies Act would be enough to bite or puncture this big time disease that is now penetrating and threatening India.

I only feel ashamed at all the Health Ministers from the Union to the States together with all the Health Secretaries and Vice Chancellors or Deans of all Medical Institutions of our country who do not have the guts or courage to blow the whistle at this fraudulent nonsense. If such evangelists could prove that God cures wholesale through their prayer meetings then they should be made the Health ministers or secretaries in government and also the Vice chancellors and deans of medical institutions so that the poor general masses of our country could benefit the direct magical remedy of their God.

It is only in India that we have the four Vedas for the Gods followed by the fifth and sixth vedas namely the Dhanur Veda and Ayur Veda for Humans to protect themselves. We Indians were thoroughly rational even before thousands and thousands of years to know that God has descended upon earth as medicines to cure and the knowledge had been orally recorded and passed on for generations and generations as true knowledge. The great Indian history and epics in various languages have recorded God's direct interference to cure the most devout Bhakta, and only after confirming his devotion. Instances of such faith healing for the ordained ones, of course, only through their direct prayers, are very far and few for a billion population to take to and follow.

Had God wanted to cure, either directly or through his chosen agents addressing in person or through Tv then there is no necessity for medical practitioners. Thus the irrationality that is being pounded through the TV medium in the name of faith healing targeted on lakhs and lakhs of the poor is not only a grave threat to the health department of the government but also a security threat to the nation as such mass hypnotists can wreck havoc by preaching against taking medicines for some grave communicable disease that can cause real problems for the Government and also the people.

I am sure that the magical remedies Act would not work at all since the nadir has been reached in Tamil Nadu a few days before to recognise and felicitate the greatest of such a fraudster. The Greenways Road in Chennai, the most prestigious road where all the High Court Judges including the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, and all the Ministers of the Tamil Nadu Government have their bungalows has been named after one such fraudulent evangelist by name DGS Dinakaran, who died last year. The current state of affairs in Tamil Nadu is so shameless that instead of naming the most prestigious road which was and is the residence of the best of men who did / doing their Constitutional duty in the name of the first amongst such doyens to have resided in that road, sadly has been named after a fraud who made magical remedies as his full time business, made billions of rupees, acquired huge properties, constructed money spinning educational institutions only for the moneyed class and not the poor, shopped only at the Harrods, London and now his entire family including his grand children are into the same business to continue it in the next millennium.

"Long live Magical remedies and after that, the Indian Law".