The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to decide on a representation made to it seeking to ban all forms of online betting and gambling.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj said "In the light of the representation in terms of annexure A, the state government will have to take a stand about action, if any they propose to take in the subject matter."
The bench added "To enable the state government to take a stand we adjourn the petition till June 1. The decision taken by the state government shall be placed on record in the form of objections by May 27."
In its representation made to the government dated September 12, 2020 the petitioner Sharada D R, has sought to ban all online betting and gambling. It was claimed by the petitioner that even after submitting a reminder letter dated October 24, when there was no response, a petition was filed before the High Court.
The plea states that the State of Karnataka remains in a regulatory vacuum. The gullible and hapless sections of society, particularly the youth, are falling prey to online gambling and betting in the midst of a pandemic situation.
The court also allowed the impleading application filed by All India Gaming Federation and Online Rummy Federation. During the hearing the additional government advocate submitted that Online gambling can be played from anywhere in the world. This is part of the policy of the government before the policy being decided on this issue, the central government may be a necessary party."
To which the court said "Ultimately for banning a particular activity the question will be again of existence of a legislation. You must decide what you want to do, don't bother about what the Government of India wants to do."
The petition mentions that High Courts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have directed their respective jurisdictional state legislatures to explore the possibilities of regulating the regime. In these states there exists a central legislation. However, in Karnataka there is neither central legislation nor any regulatory regime.
The petition also notes that because the State has no mechanism to monitor whether any online game or activity is a game of chance or involves skill. It cites the example of the Game of Rummy is a game of skill. It is said "However, what holds good for the game in the offline mode may not be true for the online mode. The State has not bothered to create any monitoring mechanism to ascertain whether the online Rummy offered by various virtual gaming platforms. In fact, admittedly many other puritan games of chance are in vogue on the internet, which can be very easily accessible and played by persons of all age groups including the children. However, the State has not taken any action to regulate the same."
The petition also states that because in the present pandemic situation, vulnerable sections of society, particularly, youngsters and children have access to the internet via mobile phones and laptops. Realising this precarious situation, many states have brought about legislation and regulatory regime to ban online gambling and betting.
Following the directions of the Kerala High Court, the Kerala Government recently made online gambling illegal.
In November 2020, the Madras High Court had asked the Tamil Nadu Government to bring a law to curb online betting. Following that, the Tamil Nadu government brought an Ordinance recently. The Gujarat High Court has also passed a similar direction.Also, the Delhi High Court has directed the Union Of India & Delhi Government to treat a petition filed against online gambling, as a representation and decide the grievances ventilated in the petition, as narrated in detail in the writ petition