Karnataka gaming ban: AIGF mentions writ petition before HC – to be listed next week

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A lawyer representing All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) today mentioned the writ petition filed by AIGF before Justice Krishna S. Dixit. The petition was filed against the amendment to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 that effectively banned all games for stakes. The lawyer pointed out that games of skill have suddenly been criminalised on account of the amendment, and that there is a grave threat of coercive action. Responding to the mention, the Judge said the matter will be listed next week. On October 8, G2G was the first to report that AIGF and three other entities have approached the Karnataka High Court against the gaming law amendment.

Update 1: AIGF petition to be heard tomorrow (22 October)

A total of six petitions are filed so far against the amendment. The final numbering was delayed due to Dussehra vacation to the Karnataka High Court. Apart from the State of Karnataka, the petitioners have included the Department of Law (Karnataka), the Director-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police (Bengaluru), the Department of Home (Karnataka) as the respondents.

The petitioners in the remaining five petitions are Head Digital Works Private Limited (the company that operates online rummy platform A23), Play Games24x7 Private Limited (the company that operates RummyCircle and My11Circle), Gameskraft Technologies Private Limited (the company that operates RummyCulture and Gamezy), Galactus Funware Technology Private Limited (that operates skill games under the brand Mobile Premier League), and Junglee Games (that operates Junglee Rummy, Junglee Teen Patti, and fantasy gaming platform Howzat).

At the time of writing this, the petitions by GamesKraft and Junglee Games are pending final registration. All these petitions challenging the amendment will be listed before a single judge bench as per the publicly available registry data.

Meanwhile, another public interest litigation has been filed before the Karnataka High Court seeking to prohibit the offering and playing of fantasy sports that are compliant with Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, a self-regulatory industry body. The petitioner Saahil Nalwaya who has filed a similar petition before Rajasthan High Court has now sought making it a criminal offence under the Karnataka Police Act. This petition got recently numbered and will be listed before a division bench.

FIFS (Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports), a section 8 not-for-profit company is a self-regulatory body for fantasy sports in India. FIFS had obtained a legal opinion from the Hon’ble Justice (Rt) Ashok Bhushan on the applicability of the recently notified amendments to the KPA to the online fantasy sports operators.

The intent of the legislature was not to cover legitimate business activity which is evident from the substantive section 2(7) and in line with the settled legal position that OFS based on FIFS charter, does not amount to wagering or betting,” reads the opinion. The former judge stated that online fantasy sports are not covered under gaming as defined under the KPA and the operators can very well continue their legitimate business activity as it is protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Based on this opinion Dream11 continued to operate in the State including on the day when the petition by Saahil Nalwaya was filed. However, as on date all major gaming companies have stopped operating in the State.