Karnataka Gaming Ban: Parties conclude arguments, HC reserves judgement

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The parties in the petitions challenging the Karnataka online gaming ban law concluded the oral arguments before the High Court today. The petitioners include gaming companies, individuals, and industry bodies. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Compliance Act, 2021, notified on October 5 makes all forms of gaming for stakes, including online, a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

The petitioners include gaming companies Mobile Premier League, Games24x7, Gameskraft, Head Digital Works Private Ltd, and Junglee Games along with industry bodies like All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS). The case which was initially listed before a single bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit was later transferred to a division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit.

The matter came up for hearing for the first time on 22 October 2021 and was listed on 12 days in total. A battery of senior advocates Dr Abhishek Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Gopal Jain, Sajan Poovayya, DLN Rao, Arvind Datar, and CA Sundaram appeared in the matter.

The petition which was initially listed only for interim relief was heard for final arguments based on the concurrence of all the parties involved. The petitioners relied on the recent judgements of Madras and Kerala High Court and also decades-old cases like RMB Chamarbaugwala, State of Andhra Pradesh vs. K. Satyanarayana. The Advocate General (AG) appearing for the government tried to differentiate between the earlier decisions and the present facts. The AG argued that games of skill would lose their nature when the public at large is invited.

Today the Court heard the arguments of FIFS who joined as a petitioner earlier this month. The AG argued on behalf of the State differentiating the cases decided by Bombay High Court, Punjab and Haryana High Court in matters involving Dream11.

What expertise will a person staying in Raichur exercise on a game of club football?” argued the AG. It was also argued that betting on cricket matches was a big menace, it lead to the massive circulation of money. “It also spoilt purity of the sport. So strict action was taken to prevent betting on cricket matches.”

Earlier Mr Rohtagi on behalf of FIFS argued that fantasy sports depend on many factors which the player has to study. Mr Rohtagi also read the charter of the federation that lays down rules to argue that fantasy sports are a game of skill.

In the end, the bench asked the petitioners to submit rejoinder arguments by written submissions. The judgement now stands reserved.