Act against Online Gambling may be tabled in TN Legislative Assembly next January: Advocate General tells Madras High Court

The Court has, therefore, posted the pleas challenging the online gambling ordinance, in so far as it relates to online rummy, for hearing next on January 18, after Pongal.
Act against Online Gambling may be tabled in TN Legislative Assembly next January: Advocate General tells Madras High Court
AG Vijay Narayan

The Madras High Court today declined to grant an interim stay on the Tamil Nadu ordinance banning online gambling and online games, including online rummy games, the second such instance when the Court has refused to stay the ordinance.

A Bench of Justices R Subbiah and C Saravanan, however, posted the matter for final hearing on January 18, after the State sought more time to file its counter- affidavit.

The Court had earlier refused to stay the ordinance on a petition moved by by online gaming platform Junglee. In that case, the State had undertaken to file its counter in the matter by today.

Appearing for the State, Advocate General Vijay Narayan today sought more time and urged the Court to adjourn the matter till after Pongal.

Opposing prayers for an interim stay, the Advocate General argued that the ordinance would have miniscule effect on the operations of the petitioners given that only two States - Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh - have banned online rummy.

He argued further that there is evidence to show that children are playing online rummy using their parents' credit card.

Notably, he added that there is a possibility for the government to table an Act against online games in the forthcoming Legislative Assembly Session, which may not necessarily be in the same form as the ordinance under challenge. Therefore, he urged that the matter be taken up after Pongal, prompting the Court to post the matter for hearing on January 18.

The Court cautioned that no further extension of time will be given to file the counter.

Meanwhile, Gameskraft Technologies today joined in the challenge mounted against the ordinance, in so far as it relates to online rummy. It has contended that the ordinance, particularly the introduction of Section 3A to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, must be read down to exclude a ban on online rummy. Sections 3A and 11 of the Act cannot coexist, it was submitted today.

Section 11 of the Act provides that the provisions of the Act would not be applicable to games of skill. Appearing for Gameskraft, Senior Advocate Mohan Parasaran asserted that it is already settled that online rummy is a game of skill as laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Andhra Pradesh v. K Satyanarayana and ors.

As such, there is a prima facie case made out in the petitioner's case, meriting the grant of an interim stay, it was argued by Parasaran. He urged that the status quo as prevailing before the ordinance was promulgated should be restored pending the final disposal of the challenge to the ordinance's validity.

Appearing for Junglee, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued that the petitioners wanted an early resolution of the matter, adding that they can establish that online rummy is safer than rummy played in other places.

Rebutting the Advocate General's submissions on this count, Rohatgi argued that even if children were playing the game, it would not make online rummy a game of chance.

"Our business is impacted. The question is whether it is legitimate or not legitimtate. According to us, it (online rummy) was wrongly stopped, they had no jurisdiction. if they want it after two weeks, let it continue in the mean time", he argued, while pointing out that it was on the State to file their counter by today.

This aspect was also raised by Senior Advocate PS Raman, also appearing for Junglee. Referring to the earlier hearing, Raman pointed out,

"... when we pressed for interim protection, they said they will file counter."

Whereas Parasaran urged the Court to at least pass orders that no coercive action be taken against the petitioners in the interim, the Court was disinclined to grant any interim relief save for the filing of counter and to fix the matter for further hearing on January 18.

In its petition, Junglee had contended, among other things, that the total prohibition of games of mere skill would result in mushrooming of illegal websites which would negate the promulgation of the ordinance.

"Instead, regulation of the games of skill including rummy is the need of the hour rather than a complete prohibition", Junglee had submitted in its plea.

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