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Karnataka High Court Conducts Another Session, FIFS Joins Petitioners Challenging State’s Online Gaming Ban

Karnataka High Court
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  • Namita Ghosh December 7, 2021
  • 2 Minutes Read

On Monday, the special bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit conducted another hearing of the petitions challenging the state`s controversial online gaming ban. In a related development, The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) has joined the litany of petitioners fighting the state’s new law. On being apprised of the FIFS petition, the bench decided to hear their arguments (to be presented by Advocate Mukul Rohatgi) on December 14.

In the December 6 hearing, the bench primarily heard the submissions of Advocate Sridhar Prabhu, representing Sharada D.R. while Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted a rejoinder on behalf of GamesKraft.

For the unaware, the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021 was notified on October 5 – prohibiting and criminalizing all forms of online gaming. A total of six petitioners, namely All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), Mobile Premier League (MPL), Junglee Rummy, Games 24X7, Gameskraft, and Head Digital Works, the parent company of Ace2Three, filed writ petitions challenging the ban initially with many others joining in later.

The High Court heard the petitioners’ arguments across five hearing sessions, conducted on October 27- 28, November 9, November 11, and November 18. Later, Advocate-General Prabhulinga K. Navadgi presented the state’s stand in the three subsequent hearings on November 23, November 30, and December 1. During the December 1 hearing, the court announced all submissions would be considered final with the consent of concerned parties.

FIFS has become the latest petitioner to join the legal crusade against Karnataka`s online gaming ban. The FIFS had earlier asserted the new law did not apply to its member fantasy sports operators. It was basis this advice, Dream11 continued operations in Karnataka even after the new law was enforced. Later the company withdrew operations following an FIR against its founders Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth.


The Hearing – Latest Submissions

Here is a summary of the submissions presented by Sharada DR and GamesKraft’s legal counsel during the latest hearing session.


Submissions on behalf of Sharada DR:

Advocate Sridhar Prabhu representing Sharada DR said AIGF members are not ascertainable, and the AIGF petition is not maintainable. He underlined – “Kindly see the rules and regulations of the organizations. They are a society. Kindly see their objective. There is no mention that they can espouse the cause of their members…You’re espousing an imaginary cause. AIGF is not authorized to represent its members. Where’s the board resolution?”

The bench was not convinced of this argument, and Prabhu emphasized the points brought up by Advocate-General Prabhulinga K Navadgi in earlier hearings.


Submissions by Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi:

Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing GamesKraft had on November 11, presented his case supporting the argument games of skill can be played for stakes. On Monday, Singhvi submitted his final rejoinder. He presented the following points:

> The jurisprudence over games of skill has been developed over 70 years. The state government is now proposing a new test. The government cannot claim public order, law, and order as the basis for the new law since the same argument can be used for any Law. He underlined – “How can you bring in Entry 1 and 2 for Games of Chess?”

> A fundamental right under 19 (1) (G) would require something extraordinary to completely extinguish it. For public order, one must demonstrate public disorder (ref. the Supreme Court judgment in the Banka Sneha Sheela vs. The State of Telangana case).

> Referred to the affidavit filed by the state government on crimes due to online gaming. Singhvi said there is no attempt to show a co-relation. “How can a pith and substance in online gaming arise from state’s right to regulate trade and commerce?” Singhvi questioned, claiming that most arguments by the government are aberrations or scare arguments.

Keep following PokerGuru for the latest updates on this developing story!

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