Karnataka HC dismisses PIL seeking law against online gambling as infructuous

Published on:

A division bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by social activist Sharada DR that sought a ban or appropriate regulatory regime for online gaming and gambling.

At the outset, the Additional Advocate General (AAG) appearing for the state government stated that the prayer sought by the petitioner Sharada DR to consider her representation and ban or regulate online gaming and gambling has become infructuous as the state government has already enacted amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, which deals with the issue of online gambling and bans all games involving risking of any money or stake.

ALSO READ: Dream11 co-founders approach Karnataka High Court against FIR under online gaming ban law

Advocate Shridhar Prabhu appearing on behalf of Sharada agreed with the AAG’s contention and noted that a law had indeed been enacted by the state legislature banning online gaming, although it would be appropriate for the government to consider enacting a regulatory as well.

In November 2020, Davnagere resident Sharada DR had approached the Karnataka High Court with a PIL seeking a regulatory regime or ban on online gambling and other forms of online gaming played for stakes. The Karnataka High Court had repeatedly questioned the state government on the delay in drafting new legislation and placing it before the cabinet.

Finally, in September 2021, the Karnataka cabinet approved legislation to amend the Karnataka Police Act, 2021 to include online gambling and risking of money on skill-based games within its ambit. The law was passed by both the houses of the legislature and assented to by the Governor on 4th October 2021.

ALSO READ: Dream11 and My11Circle skip the ASCI-mandated word “addictive” in ad disclaimers

It may be noted that several online gaming companies and the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) have filed writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 insofar as it bans online skill-based games played for stakes. The petitioners contend that such an overarching ban and lack of distinction between games of skill and chance infringes on their right to free trade and commerce guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

These writ petitions are slated to be heard tomorrow by a single judge bench comprising of Justice Krishna S. Dixit. Apart from these writ petitions, a separate PIL has been filed by Rajasthan-based advocate Saahil Nalwaya seeking a ban on online fantasy sports games. The PIL is slated to be heard on 4th December 2021.

Dream11 founders Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth have also filed a writ petition in the High Court seeking quashing of an FIR against them for running online gambling operations. It may be noted although most online gaming companies ceased their operations in Karnataka on 5th October, after the new law came into force, Dream11 continued accepting players from the state until 10th October, when it decided to suspend operations in Karnataka.