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Karnataka HC Asks State Government to Respond to PIL Seeking Ban on Real-Money Gaming

Karnataka HC
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  • Attreyee Khasnabis December 7, 2020
  • 3 Minutes Read

It seems like the inevitable is in the making. After Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Karnataka may become the third south-Indian state this year (or early 2021) to ban real-money gaming. Last week, the Karnataka High Court (HC) asked the state government to respond to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a ban on all forms of online gambling and betting until appropriate regulations are framed.

The PIL, filed by Sharada D.R., a resident of Davanagere, has submitted that though there is a dire need for regulating online gambling and online games, the government has not created any regulatory regime or regulations for the same.

A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajit Shetty issued a notice to the State Government in the plea.

This PIL comes after the state Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai in November had commented that the state government was considering promulgating an ordinance to ban online games.

The PIL filed by Sharada points to the complete regulatory vacuum in Karnataka as far as online gambling and betting activities are concerned. The petitioner contended that a total ban is essential as vulnerable sections of society, particularly the youth, adolescents, and even children are prone to the hazardous and predatory situation. The existing provisions of the Karnataka Police Act merely put restrictions on gaming or gambling in traditional forms with certain exceptions.

“The state has no mechanism to monitor whether any online game or activity is a game of chance or involves skill. For instance, it is well-settled today that the Game of Rummy is a game of skill. However, what holds good for the game in the offline mode may not be true for the online mode,” the petition stated.

The petitioner further sheds light on the fact that the High Courts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu had recently directed their respective jurisdictional State legislatures to explore the possibilities of regulating the regime.

“However, Karnataka remains blissfully oblivious to regulating all forms of betting and wagering in cyberspace using computers or any communication device/ resource…Great injustice will be caused in case these illegal and unregulated activities are not halted by this court. The loss can’t be compensated with money. Per contra, no hardship or loss will be caused to the government or others,” the petition said.

The PIL also contends that writ courts have ample power to direct the state to regulate and monitor an activity impacting society’s social and economic health, particularly during a pandemic situation.

The matter will be heard next on January 12, 2021.

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