'No Public Interest' : Gujarat HC Dismisses PIL Against PUBG Ban [Read Order]

The High Court of Gujarat yesterday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) petition filed by Internet Freedom Foundation(IFF) challenging the ban imposed by Gujarat police on the online video game PUBG.

"We are not satisfied that the scope of the present writ petition falls under the ambit of Public Interest Litigation", observed the bench of Chief Justice Anant S Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav.

During March, several Commissioners of the Gujarat police had issued orders in exercise of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure banning PUBG. Following this, several teenagers who were found playing the video game were arrested under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code for disobeying the ban.

In this backdrop, the IFF filed the petition contending that the ban was arbitrary and unreasonable, violating Articles 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The ban was questioned as a disproportionate invasion of violating personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution on following grounds :

  • There is no legitimate purpose achieved by the ban because persons arrested for playing the game were not engaging in violent or aggressive behaviour.
  • There is no evidence that playing PUBG will endanger human life and health.
  • Arrest and criminal prosecution of adolescents and young adults for playing this game will not promote their psychological and social well being.
  • There are other less restrictive methods to prevent game addiction, such as psychological counselling.
  • Arrest and threat of imprisonment up to 6 months for playing a video game on one's mobile phone is invasion of personal liberty.

Further, the ban was challenged as infringing freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 on following grounds :

  • PUBG is a platform which facilitates conversation and formation of bonds among persons through team play and recreation. So the ban impacts right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a).
  • PUBG is a team game, and it promotes formation of groups. Therefore, it impacts freedom to assemble peacefully and form associations under Article 19(1)(b).
  • PUBG can be a source of livelihood as competitive playing can fetch cash prices. Therefore, it impacts right to earn livelihood under Article 19(1)(g).

The petition further states that the police has exceeded their powers under Section 144 CrPC by imposing the ban, as Section 144 cannot be invoked on the basis of remote possibility of threat. The ban was not motivated by any recent events of violence induced by PUBG. There is no credible scientific evidence to show that playing this game can endanger health of persons. The ban is based on a "moral panic" without any verifiable data showing ill effects of the game, stated the petitioner.

PlayerUnknown's Battle Grounds(PUBG)

PUBG is also one of the most popular online games in the world as almost 400 million players play the game worldwide. The online game has up to one hundred players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and equipment to kill others while avoiding getting killed themselves. The available safe area of the game's map decreases in size over time, directing surviving players into tighter areas to force encounters. The last player or team standing wins the round.

Read Order