Tightening the noose on discriminatory advertising

Policharcha.com | Updated: February 06, 2020, 3:23 IST

discriminatory advertising.

Advertisements sway consumers towards a particular product and affect their consumption patterns, but due to the intensity of competition in the market, companies often tend to use false narrative to sell their products.

Introduced on 3rd February by the Health Ministry, draft of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to the address the problem of discriminatory advertising.

From promising a miraculous cure for AIDS, or changing an unborn baby’s sex, to treating heart ailments, cancer, or ‘magic remedies’ for changing the colour of one’s skin, these advertisements have been inciting discrimination in the viewers’ minds.

The draft bill proposes to amend certain provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954 regarding the extent of punishment for such advertising.

Proposed amendments:-

  • An act of deceitful advertising can now be slapped with a fine of Rs. 10 lakh and two years of prison for first-time offenders, and a fine of Rs 50 lakh and up to five years of prison for second-time offenders. The current penalty mentioned in the act provides for a six months and one year jail term, with or without fine, for first-time and second-time offenders respectively.
  • The Draft bill includes 78 diseases, disorders, or conditions, and prohibits the advertisement of medicines and ‘magic remedies’ to cure any of these diseases, disorders, or condition. Earlier, the Act talked of 54 such disorders.
  • The Bill also expands the definition of advertisement to “any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement or pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner, poster or such other documents, provided that label or wrapper is an advertisement only if it contains any information or claim other than provided in the rules.”

Need for the amendments:-

False advertising, especially for beauty products that promise to brighten one’s skin or change its colour tone to a lighter shade, has been a problem for years now. Such ads directly come out of the society’s fetishisation for fair skin. These ads continue to be showcased through a lot of advertisement platforms, sometimes subtly or sometimes even directly, implying beauty is equivalent to white and clear skin which is highly problematic and racial in nature.

Since more than six decades ago, when the original bill was passed, hardly anyone has been booked under this law. We know that this problem is not a new phenomenon, and most of us have seen such ads throughout our childhood, but there was no substantial action taken in this regard by the law makers, or the executives.

Will amending a non performing law solve the problem of discriminatory advertisement and problematic narratives?

Amending a law is one thing, but acting on it is another.

What are your views? We would love to hear from our readers.