Online gaming: Karnataka HC sets aside offensive changes, says legislature open to bringing new law

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Monday struck down the contentious amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, dealing with online games, allowing the petitions filed by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and gaming companies.

A division bench consisting of chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justice Krishna S Dixit said the writ petitions had been allowed, and the court has found the amendments were ultra vires of the Constitution. The court said it was not striking down the entire law but only some offending provisions.

The bench issued a writ of mandamus to the State restraining it from interfering with the online gaming business and related activities of the gaming firms. The petitioners had contended that Karnataka’s law effectively curbed online games of skill too which had been allowed by the apex court.

The court, however, left it open to the legislature to consider a new law in conformity with the Constitutional law against gambling.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and others had appeared for petitioners, while Advocate General Prabhulinga Navadgi appeared for the state government.

The Karnataka government, on October 5, notified the law banning betting and wagering in online games after Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot gave his assent. The Karnataka Legislature had passed amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 during its recent sitting.

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The state government has taken the stand before the court that its amendments do not ban online “games of chance” or “game of skill”, they restrain people from risking money “on the happening of an uncertain event and online platforms are prohibited from inducing gullible public with lure of unattainable prizes.”

The Bengaluru City police had also booked Dream11 co-founders Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth under the provisions of the new law.

The Tamil Nadu had, last year, promulgated an ordinance amending its Gaming & Police Laws Act, 2021, which banned online gambling. The Madras High Court, however, struck down the amendments calling the law unconstitutional.

Kerala too had last year prohibited online rummy games under the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act. It was set aside too.

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