EXCLUSIVE: Kerala HC reserves judgment on challenge to notification banning online rummy

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A single judge of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justice TR Ravi heard today the concluding arguments in the writ petitions challenging the amendment to the notification issued by the state government banning online rummy when played for stakes.

Justice Ravi of the Kerala High Court heard arguments by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Joseph Markos and Advocates Santhosh Mathew and Thomas Kuruvilla appearing on behalf of four online rummy companies Head Digital Works Private Limited (Ace2Three), Junglee Games India Private Limited (Junglee Rummy), Play Games24x7 Private Limited (RummyCircle) and Gameskraft Technologies Private Limited (RummyCulture) as well as Government Advocate N. Manoj Kumar appearing on behalf of the state of Kerala over three days in the month of July, before reserving judgment in the matter.

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The counsels appearing on behalf of the petitioner rummy companies argued that the state government could not ban rummy, which was a game of skill through a mere notification under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, and that the ban on online rummy while allowing physical rummy was arbitrary in nature.

They further contended that ban on online rummy played for stakes, which was a skill-based game was contrary to various Supreme Court and High Court rulings, and that the notification, which gives the state government power to clarify the list of skill-based games, instead of bans online rummy, thereby violating their right to trade and commerce guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

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The state government advocate on the other hand contended that playing online rummy for stakes was causing various social problems, including suicides and loss of hard-earned savings. He further stated that a division bench of the Kerala High Court had ruled in K Ramchandran v. The Circle Inspector of Police in the year 2019 that rummy played for stakes would amount to gambling and be illegal.

He further brought to the attention of the court that a review petition filed by three online rummy companies against the order was also rejected and the division bench order would bind the court unless expressly overruled by a larger bench.

After hearing all the arguments from both sides, Justice Ravi has reserved the matter for pronouncing a final judgment. It is expected that a detailed judgment will be pronounced in the matter in the next six to eight weeks.