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Online gambling ban: Karnataka govt approaches Supreme Court against HC judgement

Karnataka now joins its neighbouring state Tamil Nadu that had also filed a similar petition before the Supreme Court in November last year

March 30, 2022 / 05:20 PM IST
Representative image.

Representative image.

The Karnataka government on March 29 moved the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court judgement that recently struck down the contentious provisions of the state's online gambling law.

It has filed a special leave petition, contending that the regulatory amendments were needed against online gambling to maintain public order as cybercrime has reached "epic proportions with over 28,0000 cybercrime cases filed in the past three years", Deccan Herald reported.

“The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 made criminalised wagering, betting, or risking money on the unknown result of an event. It was specifically required to suitably deal with the evolving situation arising from the ill effects of online gambling," the petition by the state government said.

With this move, Karnataka joins its neighbouring state Tamil Nadu that had also filed a similar petition before the Supreme Court in November last year, with the hearing on the petition still pending.

Tamil Nadu had approached the Supreme Court to restore the ban on online gambling after the Madras High Court struck down its amendments as unconstitutional in August 2021.

In its appeal, the Karnataka government mentioned that the High Court had "grossly erred" by not taking into account the material it had provided related to different cases registered by the police authorities on the misleading ways of various websites and exploiting the general public to spend huge money, the report noted.

Karnataka's online gambling saga

On February 14, a division bench comprising Justice Krishna S Dixit and Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi had quashed some of the key amendments of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act that dealt with online gambling as unconstitutional.

The court however had noted that the entire law is not being struck down but only the contentious provisions. It also noted that the judgement does not prevent an appropriate legislation being brought concerning the subject (betting and gambling) in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

This judgement came after more than a dozen petitioners including skill gaming industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), self-regulatory fantasy sports industry body Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), real-money gaming firms Mobile Premier League (MPL), Games24x7, A23(Ace2Three), Junglee Games, Gameskraft and Pacific Games had challenged the constitutional validity of amendments made to the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act that had banned all forms of online gaming where transfer of money is involved.

The amendment, which came into effect on October 5, 2021, was tabled by the state's legislative assembly against the backdrop of a public interest litigation filed in the Karnataka High Court to prohibit online gambling. However, it removed the distinction between game of skill and game of chance, thereby bringing skill-based gaming startups under its purview.

This resulted in several fantasy sports and gaming firms such as Dream11, Mobile Premier League, Games24x7 (RummyCircle, My11Circle), and Ace2Three suspending operations in the state in October last year. Subsequent to the judgement, these companies have again started allowing users in Karnataka to enter into paid contests on their respective platforms.

Gambling is a state subject in India due to which several states are taking different approaches to curb these activities. States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have banned or tried to ban real-money games over the past year.

Apart from the Karnataka High Court, the Madras High Court and Kerala High Court have also overturned similar orders by their respective state governments. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had upheld fantasy sports as a game of skill in July this year.
Vikas SN