Plea in Delhi HC seeks to form policy to protect children from offline, online games

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved in the Delhi High Court for the Union of India to come forth with a national policy to protect children from developing addiction to online games along with a request to constitute a regulatory body that monitors the content of online and offline games.

Distress Management Collective (DMC), a trust constituted by advocates Robin Raju and Deepa Joseph, filed the petition in lieu of complaints from parents who are worried about their children getting addicted to online games. This addiction, as per many studies and analysis, is the precursor of many serious psychological problems. 

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Robin Raju and Deepa Joseph were deeply compelled to put in their two cents to shape the future of children who are addicted to online games. As per recent news, children are committing suicides, fighting depression and committing crimes owing to their addiction towards online games. These findings propelled the advocates’ concern and moved the instant petition as children below 10 years of age are highly addicted to online games.

According to the plea, “the pandemic has posed a major problem in controlling and monitoring children from excessive gadget use. As classes are now online so parents are not in a position to reprimand children for being with a mobile phone like they did in the past. There are numerous studies which show the adverse impact of online games on the psyche of both young children (6-10 years) and adolescents (11-19 years). The leading medical journal The Lancet in its research to show the effect of media violence and youth aggression came to the conclusion that people are more likely to behave aggressively in the real world when they identify with a violent character.”  

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Apart from this, there is an immediate need for schools to deploy counselling sessions to treat the drastic effects of online gaming addiction. The petition is a serious move that brings more focus on the Cyber Cell which should tackle the menace of online game addiction that lead to monetary exploitation in some cases. 

“It is pertinent to note that the issue of game addiction has been seriously viewed by UNICEF and other Child Welfare Organisations across the globe. It is worth noting that countries like the UK and the European Countries classify each game on the basis of Pan European Game Information (PEGI) ratings,” highlighted the plea. 

Madras High Court dismisses PIL seeking ban on online games

Last month, the Madras High Court refused to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) petition that highlighted the issue of addiction to online games among children and young adults

The plea (E Martin Jayakumar v. The Government of India and ors) cited two main issues. First, it sought a direction to ban online and offline video games and second to it wants implemented a framework to monitor computers, mobile phones or other devices that offer such addictive games.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy junked the PIL and stated that the petitioner should take up this issue with the government first. The court also opined that it does not have appropriate expertise since it a policy-related matter.

The Bench opined that it is the duty of the court to step in when there is a danger to society on account of the executive’s failure to act. However, some concerns raised by the petitioner with regards to addiction to technology, however, found favor with the Court.

The Bench disposed of the matter by allowing the petitioner to make a representation within 4 weeks to both the the Union government and the State on the issue. The authorities have been directed to file a response to the petitioner’s representation within 8 weeks of its receipt.

The order wouldn’t prevent more such petitions being filed until the executive acts, the Court clarified.

According to the order, the petitioner’s issues included the addiction of children and young adults to online games, especially during the pandemic wherein schools have remained shut for the most part. The petitioner also highlighted the severe impact addiction can have on young adults during the career building stage of their lives