ASP authorised to raid suspected gambling houses under Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act: Full Bench of Bombay HC

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A full bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Justice Mangesh Patil, Justice NB Suryawanshi and Justice RM Josh recently held that the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) can conduct raids on suspected gambling houses under the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 without being specially authorized by the state government. The Court relied on the Supreme Court decisions in the State of Gujarat v. Lalsingh and Emperor v. Abasbhai Abdulhussein.

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The Court held that high-rank officials and Magistrates like District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Superintendent of Police had been conferred with the powers to conduct a raid under sub-clauses (a) to (d) of section 6(1) of the Act and clarified that only when delegating the authority to conduct raids to subordinates, do these high-ranking officials require special empowerment from the State Government.

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A full bench reference was necessitated from conflicting decisions of two division benches of the Bombay High Court regarding the interpretation of Section 6(1) of the Act. This section details the powers of police officers to conduct raids on suspected gambling houses. The question before the court was whether an ASP could exercise powers under sub-clauses (a) to (d) of Section 6 (1) of the Act without specific empowerment by the State Government. Sub-clauses (a) to (d) empower the police to enter suspected gambling premises, conduct searches, take individuals into custody, and seize relevant items.

In 2019, a division bench in Dilip Namdev Irale v. State of Maharashtra declared a raid conducted by an unempowered Deputy Superintendent of Police as illegal. However, the division bench in the present case disagreed with Dilip Namdev, citing the inherent authority of officers like the ASP to act without special empowerment. Thus, it referred the question to a larger bench.