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Kerala HC quashes government's move against banning online rummy

Kerala HC quashes government's move against banning online rummy
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
27 Sep, 2021

The Kerala High Court has struck down the state government’s move against banning online rummy, even as the Karnataka government prepares to bring in a new law to curb online games that involve betting and wagering.

A single judge bench of the Kerala High Court quashed an amendment to a notification issued by the Kerala Government under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, which sought to ban online rummy in the country.

The judgement, which was pronounced in open court today, hasn’t been uploaded to the website yet. It was reported by Gateway to Gaming, a website run by gaming lawyer Jay Sayta, who was present during the virtual court session. A source from one of the involved parties also corroborated the judgement and said that the full order is awaited at the moment.

Justice T.R. Ravi pronounced the judgement after considering writ petitions from four gaming companies, including Junglee Games India Private Limited, Play Games 24x7 Private Limited, Head Digital Works Private Limited and Gameskraft Technologies Private Limited. They run platforms Ace2Three, Junglee Rummy, RummyCircle and RummyCulture.

The four companies argued that the Supreme Court and various High Courts had already declared online rummy as a game of skill, which is legal in India. The state had argued that playing online rummy for money led to social problems, including suicides and loss of savings. The Kerala High Court, in a separate case in 2019, had ruled that rummy played for money will amount to gambling, the State argued. 

Online gaming in the line of fire

Though the Kerala High Court ruling doesn’t affect rulings elsewhere, Sayta said that companies could use it to corroborate their arguments in lawsuits in those states. On September 24, the Karnataka government proposed an amendment to the Karnataka Police Act seeking to ban “any act of risking money, or otherwise, on the unknown result of an event, including on a game of skill”.

On August 3, the Madras High Court struck down an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, which sought to ban online gaming in the state. However, a day after the ban Tamil Nadu law minister, S. Raghupathy said that the government would formulate a new law which would ban online gambling in the state.

Like Tamil Nadu, the Kerala government could also choose to introduce new legislation which bans online gambling in the state, including rummy. It could also challenge the judgement by the single-judge bench.