Madras High Court on Tuesday overturned Part II of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Act (Amendment) of 2021, in which lawmakers imposed a blanket ban on rummy, poker and all other games played online for a bet, bet, money or other bet, whether it is a game of skill or a game of chance.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy argued that the government banned skill games simply on the basis of an “anecdotal” reference to a few suicides and a subjective perception of online gambling addiction with stakes.
“In the absence of any scientific or empirical study, the challenged legislation can be seen to have arisen out of a sense of morality and an attempt to play galleries during an election period within a societal ethic where smoking and drinking are considered less immoral than when he gave himself up to the elders… That the bill met no opposition in the House has more to do with the optics, ”said the judges.
The division’s first bench ruled that the ban violates the constitutional right of individuals, under section 19 (1) (g), to exploit their powers. However, he hastened to add: “Nothing here will prevent appropriate legislation conforming to the constitutional sense of propriety from being introduced in the field of betting and gambling by the state.”
Although the state government relied heavily on the Law Commission 276th report to justify the ban it imposed on all forms of online gambling played with stakes, the judges pointed out that the the report itself had focused only on regulation and not on prohibition. They said the ban must be seen as something done by the legislature in a capricious and irrational way.
The judgment was rendered while authorizing a batch of brief requests filed by a multitude of private companies offering online games. The applicant companies were represented by lead counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, AK Ganguli, Mohan Parasaran, C. Aryama Sundaram and PS Raman, who questioned the rationale for the ban on skill games.
The judges agreed with the lawyer that the Supreme Court had categorically ruled that rummy was a game of skill. They said there would be virtually no difference between playing rummy physically or online. However, the law in question had not taken any of these issues into consideration before banning all games, they added.
“All that can be said is that the Amendments Act is so unmistakably bold that it excludes any element of choice that an individual may exercise. The contested law is invalid in all its aspects, so no part can be recovered or allowed to be kept… The unshakeable mantra of the contested law is prohibition, not regulation, ”the judiciary said.
He went on to say: “There is no doubt that the gambling activity and the entanglement of betting that goes with it has a deleterious impact on some individuals and can even be ruinous. So many things are accepted. The immediate question that arises is whether it was necessary to travel the distance that the amending law has drawn in order to completely stultify and completely deny jurisdiction. ”
Author of the verdict, the Chief Justice also said: “If, on the face of it, the contested legislation is seen as restricting or completely limiting the exercise of jurisdiction in a particular area, it is for the State to do so. justify not only the necessity, but also the extent of it. No attempt has been made in this regard apart from the anecdotal reference to certain suicides and the subjective perception of the harm of drug addiction.