Supreme Court to hear GamesKraft & batch matters in July, tags PokerBaazi writ petition with existing matters

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A Supreme Court bench comprising of CJI Dr. DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra today heard a writ petition filed by online poker operator  PokerBaazi challenging a GST showcause notice. The matter is now tagged along with the Gameskraft batch of cases where the final hearing was supposed to take place in May 2024.

In the last hearing in the GamesKraft matter, Ms. Charanya Lakshmikumaran was appointed as the nodal counsel for the petitioners. She informed the bench that although the counter affidavit that Union of India was supposed to file in the earlier writ petitions, the same has not been filed yet.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) N. Venkatraman who was also incidentally present in court today was asked by the bench about the same. ASG informed that the counter affidavit is ready and will be filed soon. The court thereafter directed that the counter-affidavit be filed by 15th May, 2024 and common compilation of all pleadings and cases be completed by 15th July, 2024.

The Chief Justice thereafter indicated that the batch of cases will be listed after the court reopens from summer vacation in July 2024 and asked Ms. Lakshmikumaran to send an email to the registry regarding listing of the cases and thereafter he would ensure that fixed date(s) would be given for final hearing in the batch of cases.

Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, the Senior Counsel appearing for PokerBaazi urged the court to note that no precipitative action be taken in the matters in terms of an earlier undertaking given by ASG and also that fresh show cause notices (SCNs) are being issued by the department for which companies will keep approaching the court and filing fresh writs. ASG responded that he has given a verbal assurance that no coercive action would be taken and he would stick to that but the department cannot be stopped from issuing fresh SCNs against companies as there is a time limitation also by which SCNs have to be issued for certain assessment periods.

Ms. Lakshmikumaran also brought to the notice of the court that despite the assurance of ASG in certain SCNs issued to E-Gaming Federation members, precipitative action in terms of calling and proceeding with adjudication is taking place. To this, ASG asked Ms. Lakshmikumaran to bring such instances to his notice and he will ensure no coercive action takes place.

CJI however made it clear that since no coercive steps are taking place and ASG has given an assurance in court, nothing needs to be formally recorded in the order.

The entire batch of GST cases pertaining to online gaming and casinos likely to be listed after court holidays in July 2024.

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