The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday stressed upon the urgent need to address and regulate "online games" such as rummy, bridge, nap, poker, etc. that are luring unemployed youth to bet their money.
"Not only in the State of Tamil Nadu, but also in the entire Country, such online games…are mushrooming and there are so many advertisements appearing in almost all the social media and websites. It appears these advertisements are mostly targeting the unemployed youth, inducing them to play such games, on the pretext of earning money comfortably from their home," the bench comprised of Justice B.Pugalendhi observed.
The Court was hearing an application for quashing of FIR filed by a Secondary Grade Teacher, accused of playing cards with stakes, in violation of Section 12 of the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930.
Though the case related to offline games, the bench had queried the Police about running of online rummy in the State of Tamil Nadu.
On being informed that there is no rule to regulate and license online skill games at present, the bench said,
"This Court hopes and trusts that this Government shall take note of the present alarming situation and pass suitable legislation, thereby, regulating and controlling such online gaming through license…Needless to say that if the Government intends to pass a legislation in this regard, all the stakeholders should be put in notice and their views should be ascertained."
It clarified that it is not against the virtual games but is "anguished" that there is no regulatory body to monitor and regulate the legal gaming activities.
"To regulate the physical sports / games, we are having a legislative set up, but having such a set up to deal with the emerging online games / virtual games is the need of the hour. A comprehensive regulatory framework by a regulatory body is necessary to regulate the online sports and to curb any illegal activities as well. In fact, such regulation of online sports would encourage investment in the sector, which could lead to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment," it opined.
It added that regulation of online games is necessary to prevent youngsters and unemployed youth from being "trapped" in these games and losing all their money.
"The most dangerous thing for any Society is educated criminals. If a knowledgeable person turns out to be a criminal, it would be a havoc on the society," it remarked.
The Court explained that these gaming websites, that also partake a slice on the winning hand, often lure the youth into games and if these set of unemployed youth, who are also under frustration, get trapped into these elements, may go to any level to meet their loss.
The Court admitted that virtual gaming is a novel industry and not many Governments have laws preventing the same. However, it suggested that the Government of Tamil Nadu should take cue from the laws framed by the States of Sikkim, Nagaland and Telangana, which have introduced regulations pertaining to online gaming also.
In the case at hand, the bench noted that the Petitioner, who claimed to be a mere spectator of the game, was apprehended along with his friends from near a thorny bush. The same could not be said to be a public place in terms of Section 12 of the Act. It therefore quashed the FIR in the following words,
"The place at which the gaming had taken place, even according to the respondent Police, is near a thorny bush, cannot be termed as a common gaming house. As the continuation of the investigation in this case will amount to abuse of process of law, this Court is inclined to interfere with the proceedings."
Case Title: D. Siluvai Venance v. State
Case No.: Crl OP (MD) No. 6568/2020
Quorum: Justice B.Pugalendhi
Appearance: Advocate LP Maurya (for Petitioner); Additional Public Prosecutor KK Ramakrishnan (for State)
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