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'Excessive and Disproportionate': Madras High Court Strikes Down Tamil Nadu's Law Banning Online Games With Stakes-Read Judgment

Aaratrika Bhaumik
3 Aug 2021 3:35 PM GMT
Excessive and Disproportionate: Madras High Court Strikes Down Tamil Nadus Law Banning Online Games With Stakes-Read Judgment
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The Madras High Court on Tuesday struck down the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 which imposes a ban on playing of games such as rummy and poker on cyberspace with stakes. Part II of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 had amended the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice...

The Madras High Court on Tuesday struck down the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 which imposes a ban on playing of games such as rummy and poker on cyberspace with stakes. Part II of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 had amended the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930. 

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthikumar Ramamoorthy held that such a blanket ban violates Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution that envisages the fundamental right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. The judgment was passed in a batch of petitions that challenged the ban on online gaming in so far as it concerned online rummy and online poker. 

Opining on the patent unconstitutionality of the legislation, the Court ruled,

"The legislation assailed herein has to be regarded as something done by the legislature capriciously, irrationally and without adequate determining principle such that it is excessive and disproportionate."

Furthermore, the Court opined that the legislation imposes a wide ranging ban which is excessive and disproportionate to the object sought to be achieved by it. However, it was clarified by the Court that the State government would be at liberty to enact a new legislation for the purpose of regulating such online games.

"Oftentimes, when the State takes a paternalistic attitude, it seeks to legally regulate private life. This brings about a conflict between both the authority and the desirability on the part of the State to legislate in areas where it perceives that the individual in general or certain classes of individuals require protection and the private rights of the individual and every citizen's freedom of choice", the Court observed.

It was further observed that the wording of the Act is so 'crass and overbearing' that it smacks of unreasonableness and is thus manifestly arbitrary. It was also opined that the doctrine of severability would not apply in the instant case as the amended definition of 'gaming' runs through the entire legislation so much so that it could not be gauged with any element of certainty as to which part of the amendment the legislature would have intended to be retained as valid. 

Accordingly, the legislation was struck down for being ultra vires to the Constitution in its entirety. 

Case Title: Junglee Games India Private Limited v. State of Tamil Nadu

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