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Court decision over govt ban on online rummy, poker on Aug 3
After marathon hearings that took most of the afternoon sessions for almost a week, the Madras High Court on Monday reserved orders on a batch of pleas challenging the State government’s ban on online rummy and poker.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramaamoorthy reserved order for delivery on August 3 through video conferencing.
Appearing for the various online rummy companies, senior advocates AM Singhvi, Aryama Sundaram, AK Ganguli and PS Raman stressed that rummy and poker were clearly defined as a game of skill and not of chance, and thus cannot be subjected to a blanket ban on cyberspace. The best the State could do was to impose regulations.
They also pointed out various incongruities in the rules, as the word cyberspace has been introduced haphazardly without accounting for aspects in the evolving gaming industry in respect of rummy or poker when played physically. It was also pointed out that as per the present rules when two persons come to a friend’s place and play badminton for a bet, the friend would be prosecuted while the players could get away.
The advocates also highlighted the inbuilt safeguard in online games where none were getting cheated and were aware of the stakes they are playing for.
The State rested its argument primarily on the aspect that it was within its powers to issue such a ban in public interest and protect vulnerable persons from losing in such online games. Trying to carve out an exception in terms of competition vis-a-vis betting, Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram submitted that it does not matter whether these were games of skill or chance, as the ban would apply wherever betting was involved.
The bench observed that the State had not effectively refuted the points raised by firms, added that the ban in the present form left many issues unanswered.
It also reminded the State that it was at liberty to prohibit the vulnerable people from playing such online games but not the game itself.