The Madras High Court today struck down a recent amendment made to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, passed in 1930, which imposed a ban on online gaming of rummy and poker with stakes.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy quashed the amendment made this year while allowing a batch of PIL petitions from Junglee Games India Private Limited and others.
The bench declared as unconstitutional, Part II of the TN Gaming & Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which banned betting or wagering in cyberspace and also games of skill if played for a wager, bet, money or other stakes.
By imposing a wide-ranging complete ban, the least intrusive test was violated and the ban had thereby fallen foul of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution (right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business), the bench said. It was excessive and disproportionate, the court said.
"This court, therefore, strikes down the amendment in its entirety as ultra vires the Constitution."
The bench, however, granted liberty to the state to pass another legislation, without any lacunae. It added that nothing in this judgment would prevent the state government from introducing an appropriate legislation conforming to the Constitutional principles of propriety.
Earlier on July 26, when the court reserved its orders, Advocate General R Shanmugasundaram sought time to get instructions as to whether the new DMK government could amend the law, passed during the AIADMK regime in February this year, or promulgate an ordinance since the ban was imposed in the public interest.
However, the court declined the request and said there was no scope for the court to await the government's decision after conclusion of arguments.
When the AG claimed that online games were susceptible to manipulation, the bench had said, "You regulate it. You can't ban the games altogether."
Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation, welcomed the ruling.
"We welcome the order of the Madras High Court, which iterates that the court is not against online gaming, and calls for the government to devise a regulatory framework to provide clarity to the sunrise online gaming industry with a view to encourage investments leading to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment," he added.
He further said as the oldest online skill gaming industry body, the All India Gaming Federation, has most of the stakeholders of the online gaming industry as its members.
"We at AIGF have been at the forefront of ensuring global best practices for its stakeholders through the self-regulation skill games charter that cover all aspects of the online gaming business, overseen by an advisory of experts. To reinforce its process, AIGF has also partnered with Arthur D Little (ADL) and looks forward to wholeheartedly supporting and offering its expertise and experience if required to the government in this endeavour," he added.