Karnataka gaming case enters final stage, next hearing on 22 December

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The Karnataka High Court special bench headed by Chief Justice on Tuesday adjourned the petitions challenging the legal validity of the State’s new online gaming ban law to December 22 for final disposal. The bench sought the parties to submit written arguments in the next hearing.

The Karnataka government, on October 5, notified the law banning betting and wagering on online games. The amended definition of gaming is wide enough to include online skill games.

During the hearing, the Advocate General (AG) appearing for state government has taken the stand that the amendments do not ban online “games of chance” or “game of skill”, they restrain people from risking money “on the happening of an uncertain event and online platforms are prohibited from inducing gullible public with the lure of unattainable prizes.” The AG cited the example of the game of cricket.

Also read: Senior advocate and MP Dr. Singhvi asks questions on fantasy sports in Rajya Sabha

Dream11 which continued operations till October 9 was booked along with its co-founders Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth by the Annapoorneshwarinagar Police for violating the gaming law. The co-founders have approached the High Court seeking quashing of the FIR.

Yesterday, Senior Advocate Dr Singhvi appearing for GamesKraft argued that a ban cannot be a reasonable restriction citing the FIRs on suicides. Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Senior Advocate appearing for 3 online rummy companies. Another Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya argued that entry 34 in List II can be attributed only to a game of chance. “In the light of SC judgements R. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla and Dr K.R. Lakshmanan, it is not permissible for any state to make a new interpretation.” Poovayya also contended that there is no requirement for relying on ongoing New York case as India has sufficient jurisprudence.

Senior Advocate CA Sundaram appearing for AIGF contended that the entire case goes around one issue whether it is gaming or gambling. “If it is not gaming or gambling they neither have legislative competence nor powers under the statute.” All of them pointed to the fallacies of the arguments of AG particularly non-consideration of the Lakshmanan judgment, the recent Madras and Kerala decisions.

Mr. Rohatgi is also appearing in this matter on behalf of FIFS where the state has to file its reply first and then he will begin his submissions. FIFS joined as the petitioner in the earlier hearing on December 6. In the end, the Court has indicated its intention of completing the matter at the earliest, preferably by next week before the Christmas vacation so they can start writing the judgment during the vacation.