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Delhi High Court Declines Interim Blocking of Poker & Online Gambling Websites in PIL Case; Issues Notices to RBI and Center

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  • Attreyee K. Ganguly May 30, 2019
  • 4 Minutes Read

A division bench of the Delhi High Court on May 29 declined the interim blocking of poker, online gambling and betting websites in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by chartered accountant and social activist Avinash Mehrotra on May 21.

The division bench comprising of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi refused to grant the interim injunction argued by senior counsel Manish Singhvi and advocates Prashant Kumar, Siddhartha Iyer, Saurabh Suman Sinha, Awantika Manohar and M/s AP&J Chambers, who were all appearing on behalf of the petitioner Avinash Mehrotra.

The non-profit organization All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has sought to intervene in the matter formally and according to Glaws, argued that online India-facing poker portals including Adda52 and PokerStars India were wrongly named in the petition.


Avinash Mehrotra Files PIL Against Online Gambling, Poker, and Betting Websites

On May 21, Mehrotra had filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court asking the Union Ministry of Information Technology and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ‘to bring illegal and illicit online gambling/betting/wagering/gaming to an end.’

In his petition, Mehrotra elaborated that unlawful online gambling has increased financial instability for a large number of people. He further stated that these website’s lure the working population to spend their hard-earned money on games of chances like poker, teenpatti, sports betting, election betting etc.

Furthermore, the petition contends that the websites that offer such games are based both in India and abroad. Betway, BetRally India, 1xBet, Royal Panda, Dafabet are some offshore betting sites named in the petition, while Adda52, PokerStars India and Khelo 365 are the domestic poker sites that were mentioned in the petition as well.

The petition alleges ‘these websites seem to encourage the horrible habit of gambling amongst youngsters and are doing so solely with a view of making large amounts of profits at the cost of these unsuspecting citizens of our great nation.’

The petition also challenges the provisions in the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016, contending that ‘the State Legislature has permitted people to lay waste to their fortune, hard earned money, and possible inheritance, by permitting them to play games of pure chance, under the garb of calling them games of skill.’

According to Mehrotra, the Nagaland online skill gaming law cannot be implemented on a country-wide scale.

The petition also eludes to the fact that massive amounts of money were being laundered through offshore betting sites resulting in foreign exchange leaving India, amounting to a violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act and rules. It further suggests that numerous online gaming websites do not appropriately deduct tax at source and neither do the players pay taxes on winnings from such sites, leading to loss of tax revenue under the Income Tax Act.

The matter was heard on May 29 by a division bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anup Bhambhani.


Delhi High Court Dismisses Interim Injunction Plea

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court declined to pass an interim order to stop online gaming but sought the government’s response to a petition seeking a blanket ban on such ‘illegal’ activities.

“No interim relief. Let it go on,” a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi reportedly said while hearing the PIL filed by Mehrotra.

The center and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) were issued notices by the court to look into Mehrotra’s petition.


AIGF Likely to Intervene Formally

According to a Glaws report, Senior counsel Sandeep Sethi along with law firm Nishith Desai Associates and Gaggar & Partners’ managing partner Vaibhav Gaggar, represented the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) in this matter and “sought to bring to the attention of the court that some online India-based poker portals including Adda52 and PokerStars.in are wrongly included in the petition.”

All India Gaming Federation

Sethi, the report suggests, argued, “online poker portals operating in the country are ‘games of skill,’ and poker has been wrongly classified as a ‘game of chance’ in the petition.”

The report further stated that “AIGF has sought to formally intervene as a party in the matter before the matter is heard again on July 31, 2019.”

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