Indian Court orders Amazon to stop selling Pakistan-made Rooh Afza

The global e-commerce website Amazon has been ordered by India’s Delhi High Court to remove the listings after the Indian company Hamdard National Foundation, filed a lawsuit alleging that Pakistan-produced Rooh Afza was being sold.

According to The Indian Express, The order, passed on September 7, came on a plea filed by the Indian social welfare NGO Hamdard National Foundation saying some of the “Rooh Afza” listed on the e-commerce site in India are not manufactured by Hamdard Laboratories (India), but by Pakistani companies whose details are not mentioned on the packaging.

The Rooh Afza sherbet concentrate, an Unani formulation containing ingredients that are believed to have cooling properties, has long been popular in North India during summer. It is said to have been invented in Delhi in the first decade of the 20th century as a cure for the summer heat.

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The Indian court said:

“‘Rooh Afza’ is a product which has been consumed by the Indian public for more than a century now, and its quality standards have to comply with the applicable regulations prescribed by the Food Safety and Standards Act and Legal Metrology Act.”

“It is surprising that an imported product is being sold on Amazon without complete details of the manufacturer being disclosed,” the court order said.

Delhi Highcourt’s Justice Prathiba M. Singh ordered Amazon to remove the “listings of infringing ‘Rooh Afza’ products” within 48 hours.

What is Rooh Afza

Rooh Afza is a deep pink-coloured, sweet, concentrated syrup claimed to be made of fruits, roses, and herbs that is typically added to chilled water or milk, or used to flavour desserts such as phirni and falooda.

The formula for the sherbet was invented by Hakim Hafiz Abdul Majeed, who owned a small clinic that practised Unani, an ancient tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine that continues to be popular in the Middle East and some South Asian countries.

It is said that in 1907, Majeed created the formula of Rooh Afza more as a cooling drink than as a medicine. After Majeed died at the age of 34, his wife Rabea Begum declared Hamdard a trust largely meant to fund charitable activities and research on Unani medicines.

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Story of three Rooh Afzas

Rabea Begum’s family decided on different countries after the partition of India and the creation of east and west Pakistan. Her elder son Hakim Abdul Hamid stayed in India, while the younger son, Hakim Mohammed Said, moved to West Pakistan.

Both brothers respectively own the rights to manufacture Rooh Afza via Hamdard National Foundation in India, while Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf) in Pakistan.

However, after the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, a separate Hamdard trust was set up there. Now, all three businesses are run independently of each other by members of the extended family or the friends of the herbalist Hakim Hafiz Abdul Majeed, The New York Times said in a report published in 2021.

Today, according to the plaintiffs in the case in India, Hamdard India earns more than Rs 200 crore annually from sales of products sold under the Rooh Afza name.

Currently, Hamdard National Foundation has the rights to the beverage in India, while Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf) makes it in Pakistan.

Last year, the Hamdard National Foundation discovered that some merchants were also listing Rooh Afza, and several of them received notifications as a result. Later, it was discovered that the Rooh Afza bottles being sold in India on Amazon were really made in Pakistan, which is against the law.