Madhya Pradesh to enact a law to regulate online games

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Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Thursday announced that the state government will soon enact a law for regulating online gaming for children. The announcement came when the minister was referring to the alleged suicide by an 11-year-old boy after getting addicted to the Free Fire game.

An 11-year-old boy from Bhopal allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself over his addiction to online games Wednesday. “A minor allegedly committed suicide and was found dead at his residence. As per his parents, the minor spent around ₹6,000 on an online game without their permission. Parents had deleted the app once. The probe is underway,” Bhopal’s Additional Commissioner of Police Sachin Atulkar was quoted.

On Friday, news agency UNI reported that the government is studying the Supreme Court orders and related High Courts decisions regarding the recently notified laws. In 2021, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu enacted laws to ban online real money games or any gaming for stakes. The Tamil Nadu law was struck down as unconstitutional by the Madras High Court. The Karnataka law is challenged before the Karnataka High Court.

Real money games or gaming for stakes are different from online games by children. So far, no state in India has brought in a law to regulate online gaming for children. However, the Union Ministry of Education last month has warned parents and teachers against rising online gaming addiction among children. Earlier, the Rajasthan government issued an advisory for parents and teachers suggesting measures to safeguard children from addiction to online gaming. The advisory issued by the Rajasthan Council of School Education details technical points which are helpful in monitoring the activities and involvement of the children in gaming. Whereas, Kerala announced digital de-addiction centers to curb online gaming addiction among kids.

As per reports by India TV, the Home Minister said, “Online games are a serious issue. To prevent such tragic incidents, we are bringing an act regulating online gaming in Madhya Pradesh, whose draft has been prepared and we will soon finalise it.”‘

The issue of online games and their impact on the youth has been raised multiple times in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the recent past. In the Rajya Sabha, last month, BJP MP and former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi raised the issue in Zero Hour. Modi said that uniform taxation and regulation of online games are the need of the hour. “I would urge the Government of India (for) uniform tax for online gaming (real money games) and I urge the government to come up with a comprehensive framework for the regulation of online gaming,” Modi said while speaking in the Upper House.

Twenty-one other MPs across parties and states associated themselves with the matter, with Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu who was presiding over the proceedings said the games are “kill games, not skill-games“. The Rajya Sabha Chairman asked the Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to look at the issue.

In an RTI response last June, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has indicated that the ‘Draft Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India’ released by the NITI Aayog in December 2020 as well as the need for a central regulatory framework for online gaming in India may be deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers.