Wagering on games of skill is not gambling or betting, Senior Advocate argues before Karnataka HC

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The batch of writ petitions challenging the law banning online gaming are heard today by a special bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S. Dixit. In the last hearing, the bench heard the arguments of senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Senior Advocate C.A. Sundaram began arguments on behalf of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF). Sundaram began by taking the Court through the Memorandum and Articles of Association of registered society AIGF which promotes online skill games and consumer protection as well as the charter of skill games.

Also read: Who are petitioners in the Karnataka Gaming Ban case before the High Court

There cannot be a complete ban on games of skill, as it is protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, least intrusive has to be met. Gambling activity can be prohibited completely as it does have 19(1)(g) right & is res exra commercium,” Sundaram argued.

Sundaram on the issue of legislative competence contended that under Entry 34 of the state list, the state only has the competence to make laws on ‘gambling & betting’. He referred to the Madras High Court judgment in Junglee Games, noting wagering on games of skill does not fall within gambling or betting. Sundaram pointed out Entry 31 of List 1 of the Constitution (Union List) dealing with post, telegram, wireless communications, etc. He submitted that the regulation of Information Technology and matters over the internet falls under Entry 31.

Sundaram concluded by arguing that there cannot be a complete ban on games of skill, as it is protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. He reiterated for interim relief of staying the amendment saying there is a prima facie case, the balance of convenience, and irreparable damage if the law is not stayed.

Senior Advocate & former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi appeared on behalf of another petitioner Gameskraft the operator of RummyCircle and My11Circle. Rohatgi submitted that he will not repeat the arguments and cases cited by other counsels. He contended that an otherwise legitimate business of skill games has now been completely banned.

Heavens won’t fall if we are allowed to continue operations for a month or two. Status quo or Advocate General’s assurance of no coercive action should be continued or order should be recorded in lieu of that statement,” Rohtagi submitted. “There cannot be any debate that a game of rummy whether physical or online is a game of skill & until Supreme Court changes its view, it remains so.”

Appearing for Mobile Premier League, Senior Advocate DLN Rao submitted that the enactment suffers from a lack of legislative competence and violates Article 19(1)(g). Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya appeared on behalf of Ace2Three, Junglee Rummy, and Games24x7 Vice President & Player Saroj Panigrahi.

Poovayya contended that when the legislative competence of the legislature itself is called into question, the doctrine of presumption of constitutionality is not available.

Advocate S Basavraj of Daksha Legal argued on behalf of players of Dream11. He explained the model of selection of players in Dream11. He claimed that the 3 joint petitioners Pramod Kumar, Pratab Rajagopal & Ravikiran E will be liable to prosecution and criminal liability for playing on Dream11 in Karnataka.

Basavaraju read out the provisions of the amended Karnataka Police Act on being found in the common gaming house and making offenses cognisable. With this, the Court rose for the day. The matter will now be listed again on Tuesday 23rd November at 2:30 pm.