Tamil Nadu: Online gaming ban must satisfy tests of necessity and the trade-off

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(Tamil Nadu): On Friday, the DMK-ruled state government constituted a committee headed by Justice K Chandru to submit a report and recommend a strong law to be brought into as an ordinance to ban online gaming (rummy and other skill games).

The Madras High Court’s first bench comprising then Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy August last year had struck down a legislation Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act of 2021 as been ultra vires the constitution. The decision is currently challenged before the Supreme Court.

Also read: Bring an ordinance immediately, study committee a delay tactic

The High Court held that the legislation infringes upon the rights under Article 19 (1) (g) of the constitution which ensures the right of anyone to practice any profession. Subsequent to the Madras High Court decision, the high courts of Kerala and Karnataka had also struck down the gaming ban laws enacted in those states.

“When the Madras HC quashed the amendment brought by the state in 2021, the judges held that there is nothing technical to prove that the game is offensive. The court held that the government had merely submitted some emotional anecdotes. Therefore, the government should consider the technical issues with the game while passing the statute to ban the game,” the advocate Ramalingam told DT Next.

“While playing rummy online, we don’t know with whom we are playing on the other end. It is clueless that the people who play in the opposite may be either a human or an AI (Artificial Intelligence) machine. When a person is entering the game, the AI will assess his strengths and weaknesses in the game in just three or four moves and the algorithms could be changed making the game tougher for him,” Ramalingam was quoted by DT Next. Interestingly, the technical member is a chemistry professor and not related to information technology or computer science.

It may be noted that any legislative action that is too disproportionate or excessive, may suffer invalidation on the ground of ‘manifest arbitrariness.’ As held by Courts, a ban must satisfy the twin counts of its necessity and the trade-off or adverse impact, if any.

The Committee must explain cogent reasons to support any ban given the fact that multiple High Courts have held a blanket ban infringes upon the fundamental rights. A law backed by good reasoning can pass the test of legal scrutiny. As said by the Chief Minister a “strong law” (ordinance) against online rummy can serve as an example for other states which are facing similar issues.