The top officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) have been asked by the Law Commission to put on hold the draft online gaming policy until it can present a “comprehensive” report on the subject.
The commission, chaired by Judge Ritu Raj Awasthi, a former chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, has been taking suo motu cognizance to investigate financial losses, youth addiction, and fraudulent conduct in online gaming. The group is discussing the legal ramifications of online gaming.
“We have decided to conduct an in-depth study and analysis of the draft rules, as to bring out a comprehensive report on the matter. Consequently, we urge you to kindly put on hold any proposal to finalize any draft laws in this regard while we are seized of the matter. You are also requested to hold a meeting and have a consultation with us regarding the same,” said the chairperson in a letter to senior officials at MeitY, as quoted by Business Standard.
The commission also took note of the fact that the finance ministry was working on drafting new laws or introducing amendments to the existing ones in order to make them more relevant to the industry.
The 22nd Law Commission, working as an advisory for the ministry of law and justice and established in November 2022, conducts legal analysis, examines existing laws, and provides recommendations for new legislation.
An official from MeitY responded to a question about the Law Commission’s recommendation saying, “Any stakeholder can give their feedback on the policy as consultations are already open. There is no question of stopping the process, but suggestions are welcome.”
The draft rules call for the establishment of a self-regulatory organization to certify what constitutes as an “online game” in India. Currently, an online game is any game that is provided via the internet and which a user can access through a computer, playing with the hope of winning.
“Various states, such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya, etc. have come up with their own laws and ordinances to deal with the issue… The position of the law is unclear; as a result, it is leading to a lot of chaos and confusion. With many more state governments planning to come up with such laws, it is bound to further complicate the conundrum,” added the aforementioned letter by the Law Commission.
The 21st Law Commission had submitted a report back in 2018 called “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting Including Cricket in India” which made recommendations for the regulation of gambling and betting. One of the recommendations was to permit only licensed Indian businesses to offer gambling and betting. The number of such transactions for a certain time period should also be capped for the benefit of the participants.