Bombay HC refuses to quash FIR on online poker website Natural8 India, says allegations of bots, manipulation should be investigated

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The Goa bench of Bombay High Court this week refused to quash a First Information Report (FIR) filed against online poker website Natural8 India’s directors Kunal Patni and Sonia Madan Jain in February this year.

As per the FIR, Gamoski Networks (the parent entity of Natural8 India) and the accused persons, Patni and Jain, allowed players to deposit money on the Natural8 website and play the game of poker. The FIR alleged that there is manipulation, cheating and rigging of games as well as misappropriation of funds. Accordingly, the accused were charged for cheating, criminal breach of trust and gambling under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Goa Public Gambling Act.

Refusing to quash the said FIR, the Bombay High Court bench comprising of Justices Valmiki Menezes and Karnik said merely because none of players of the online portal complained  should not be a factor to stifle the investigation. The Court said that allegation of usage of bots required investigation.

Seeking to quash the FIR, the counsel for the company Natural8 and other accused said the allegations are unsubstantiated and intended to harass the accused.

It may be noted that Natural8 India had launched operations in September 2023 by a licensing agreement with the global Natural8 website, with Patni as the founder. The website has been conducting some of the largest tournaments in the country by allowing players across the globe to compete with Indian users. According to experts allowing international players to play against Indian players is not permitted under FEMA and other laws.

The global Natural8 website is owned by the GGPoker group, which is one of the largest global online gaming operators having gambling licenses from various countries and having tied up with the World Series of Poker (WSOP).