Karnataka HC asks Chief Secretary to submit affidavit on action to be taken for regulating or banning online gambling

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A division bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj came down heavily on the state government for not making its stand clear on the issue of online gambling and betting.

The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by social activist Sharada DR filed in November 2020 seeking a regulatory regime for online gaming and gambling and a court direction banning such activities, until the state government formulates a regulatory framework.

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Chief Justice Oka took a dim view of the disregard shown by the state government to its orders on no less than six previous hearings asking it to file on record a written statement detailing their stand on the matter and action they propose to take in light of the petitioners’ representation seeking a ban on such activities.

The Additional Government Advocate representing the state sought an additional two weeks’ time to make their stand clear and stated that the government is working on drafting a Bill that will either seek to regulate or completely ban all forms of online gambling and betting.

Interestingly, Karnataka Home and Law Minister Basavaraj Bommai has made public statements on at least three previous occasions- in November 2020 as well as February and April this year stating that the state government is looking at introducing a new legislation on online gaming and gambling, without divulging timelines of introducing such a law or details of the proposal.

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Shridhar Prabhu, the counsel representing the petitioner Sharada DR on the other hand contended that the court should come down heavily on the state government for its inaction and pass an order banning all forms of online gaming and gambling, as the public at large, especially the youth were addicted to the activity during the pandemic.

The court while noting that a drastic interim order as sought by the petitioner seeking a ban on all online gaming websites could not be granted expressed displeasure at the non-compliance of its earlier orders seeking the state government’s stand.

Ultimately, the High Court ordered the Chief Secretary of Karnataka to file a sworn affidavit explaining within a week explaining why the government had not abided by its earlier orders and delineating the government’s state on the issue of online gambling and betting. The matter is now scheduled to come up for hearing on 8th July 2021.