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Last November, the Tamil Nadu government filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court appealing the Madras High Court’s order dated August 3, 2021, that struck down the state’s ban on all forms of online gaming. After much delay, the appeal has finally been listed on September 9.
A two-judge Supreme Court bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Vikram Nath will hear the appeal listed as the State of Tamil Nadu vs. Junglee Games India Pvt. Limited and appears at item #4 in the Cause List.
According to the details on the Supreme Court website, Joseph Aristotle S will represent the state of Tamil Nadu, while the Junglee Games will be represented by Tarun Dua, TVS Raghavendra Sreyas, PLR Chambers and Co, and EC Agrawala.
Banning online games like rummy, poker, and fantasy games has been a burning topic in Tamil Nadu. The state government has been under mounting pressure from the public and the opposition parties to ban all forms of online games after reported cases of suicides due to gambling addiction.
While the government has set upon rehashing its first set of online gaming ban clauses and introducing a new ordinance to enact a ban, the fact that the Supreme Court will hear out the matter is a significant development. The Apex Court’s decision on the appeal will have profound ramifications on the future of online gaming not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other states, as a final decision could have far-reaching consequences in future appeals.
Online Gaming – On Tenterhooks in Tamil Nadu
To summarize the developments in Tamil Nadu, the government introduced an ordinance to ban all forms of real-money online gaming in 2020. The rule was promulgated in November 2020, and in February 2021, the state cabinet passed the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act 2021.
Rummy operator Junglee Games challenged the ban in the Madras High Court, with many other stakeholders joining the legal battle subsequently.
On August 3, 2021, the High Court struck down the amendments that declared real-money gaming illegal in the state. Delivering the judgment, the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy termed the state’s online gaming ban “excessive and disproportionate.”
A day after the Madras High Court judgment, State Law Minister S Regupathy clarified that the government intended to ban all forms of online gaming in the public interest.
In November 2021, the state government filed an appeal in the athform of a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court order. The petition claimed Madras High Court’s striking down of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, was unconstitutional.
Even with the appeal pending before the Supreme Court, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin reiterated his government’s stance to ban online gaming in the state in January this year.
As the first step, the government set up a committee headed by Justice K Chandru to bring a new ordinance on online rummy. In June, the committee recommended a complete ban on all games played for stakes. This was met with severe opposition from online gaming operators and industry bodies that claimed that the committee made a hasty move without giving a fair hearing to the concerned industry stakeholders.
Caught between a demanding opposition and an equally determined gaming lobby, the state government opened doors to seek public opinion on the issue, asking all concerned to submit their opinion by August 12, 2022.
The government reportedly received over 10,000 emails and several representations from the gaming operators. Among them was a leading psychiatrist based out of Godhra, Gujarat, Dr. Sandip Shah, who shared his research that proved no direct link between suicide and online gaming.
On August 18, CM MK Stalin held a meeting with top state officials on enacting a new ordinance banning online gaming, one that could withstand a legal challenge in court.
We’re yet to hear further updates on the state decision and the new ordinance in question, but the listing of the Tamil Nadu government challenging the Madras High Court judgment has just brought the ball to a much bigger court.
This is a developing story. Keep following PokerGuru for the latest updates.