Delhi HC seeks Centre response on a PIL concerning online gaming

Published on:

The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the stand of the central government on a petition to regulate online gaming and stop the games that are not games of skills but chance. The petition was filed by lawyer Atul Batra who according to the pleadings runs a charitable trust in the name of “Chirag” working in the field of pediatric cancer.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta issued notice on the petition. The petitioner pleaded that online games of chance are promoted as games of skill and that online gambling is as bad as any substance addiction.

Noting that betting and gambling is a State subject, the court asked the petitioner to implead the Delhi government as a party to the petition. A few days back the Delhi High Court disposed of a petition by fantasy gaming operator Dream7 after recording a report by the government which noted the contention of the petitioner that fantasy sports as a game of skill.

The petitioner Atul Batra sought appropriate directions directing the union government to set up a Regulator to pre-approve online games and to whom citizens/residents can reach out for their redressal of grievances.

The Central government counsel said that various ministries are deliberating on the issue, which concerns a State subject, and the Centre, therefore, cannot legislate upon it without the consent of the State. Earlier today, reports emerged that the central government has set up a committee to frame regulations for online gaming and to identify a ministry to oversee it.

In the petition, the petitioner stated that if online gambling and betting are not regulated, it is likely to cause immense damage to the society at large as youngsters with impressionable minds can fall prey to such games, which will have an adverse effect on their personal and professional life.

MOST READCentral government files appeal against Karnataka HC horse-racing GST order

The petitioner also included the gaming platform which apart from fantasy cricket offers players to win prizes by predicting individual scores and scores between particular overs. The petitioner claimed that games offered by are games of chance and amount to gambling and betting.

The petitioner said that under section 67 of the Information Technology Act, the central government is empowered to issue appropriate instructions to ban the operation of illegal gambling online websites. “It is submitted that online betting/gambling is as bad as any substance addiction. Therefore, it is only just and in the interest of the public at large that orders, writ, directions as prayed herein are granted,” the petition said.

The petition further said that the Ministry of Law and Justice formed a law commission to give its report on “legal framing work/gambling and sports betting including in Cricket in India” which submitted a report in July 2018 and recommended that the online gambling and betting should be properly regulated to ensure transparency in the market and protect the vulnerable population of the society.

“The petitioner is not against the game of skill but has concerns regarding games that are of chance and are promoted as games of skill,” the plea said.

“If a Regulator is not appointed at the National Level then there is a possibility of different states taking a different view on the “Game of Skill” and also in a state like Delhi, different Police Station based on the jurisdiction can take a different view, based on their understanding of the game,” it added. The matter would be now heard next on November 16.

The central government last month had set up an AVGC Promotion Task Force headed by the secretary, of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and will have secretaries of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.

The AVGC Promotion Task Force also includes State Governments of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana; heads of education bodies such as the All India Council of Technical Education, National Council of Educational Research and Training and representatives of industry bodies-MESC, FICCI and CII.

Last December, Sushil Modi, senior BJP leader of Bihar and former Deputy CM of Bihar raised the issue of online gaming in Rajya Sabha during the zero hours. A total of 21 MPs were associated with the issue raised by Sushil Modi. These include members from AITC, RJD, NCP, Congress, BJP, BJD, MDMK, IUML, and DMK.