TN Govt’s SLP against Madras HC judgment striking down second ban law on online poker & rummy adjourned to 5 February

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The Supreme Court on Monday took up the special leave petition filed by Tamil Nadu government challenging the November 2023 decision of the Madras High Court quashing certain provisions of second online gaming ban law as unconstitutional. The matter was listed before a three judge bench headed by the Chief Justice.

Immediately after the commencement of hearing, the counsel for one of the online rummy companies sought an adjournment on the ground that Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel who was stated to appear for some of the online gaming companies is unwell.

Kapil Sibal, senior counsel appearing for the Tamil Nadu government stated that similar issues arose for consideration in other connected appeals of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments and that this issue may also be considered. The bench however was included to grant Mr. Rohatgi’s request for adjournment before taking up the matter further.

The matter will now be listed again on next Monday, i.e., 5th February, 2024. A battery of senior lawyers Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Gopal Shankarnarayanan, CA Sundaram are appearing for online rummy companies. Tamil Nadu government is represented by Sibal along with recently designated senior counsel Amit Anand Tiwari.

Incidentally the same bench is also hearing the tax appeals pertaining to GST on money gaming. In these cases the apex court granted ad-interim stay on Karnataka High Court decision paving way for issuance of tax notices to around 99 companies. The final hearing in tax cases is scheduled for April 2024.

Tamil Nadu government may also pray for ad-interim stay on the operation of the Madras High Court judgment when the matter is taken up on Monday.

The fresh plea said even in a game of skill, a bet placed by a player on their own likelihood of success may not be well-calculated especially when the player does not have reliable data about the game such as the skill of their opponent(s) (e.g., when playing against a bot). The plea therefore said that even if online rummy and online poker are held to be games of skill, it would not automatically follow that the State cannot ban betting on such games of skill.