Don’t arrest, no coercive action against Dream11 founders till next date: Karnataka HC

The Karnataka High Court granted protection to Dream11 founders Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth from arrest till the next date of hearing, i.e. 9th November 2021 in the First Information Report (FIR) filed against them for violating the state’s anti-gambling law.

Counsels for Dream11’s founders submitted that the activity of Dream11 is a protected business and does not fall within the ambit and definition of ‘gaming’ under the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 as amended recently. They however submitted, that due to the FIR, Sheth, and Jain could face the possibility of arrest and other harassment by the police.

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The government pleader appearing on behalf of the state of Karnataka however asked for more time to take instructions in the matter. A single-judge bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar while passing the order acceded to the government advocate’s request for an adjournment to seek instructions. The court however noted that since Dream11 founders faced the threat of arrest, they should be granted limited interim relief to the extent that no coercive action should be taken against them until the next date of hearing.

Accordingly, while ordering no coercive action against Sheth and Jain, the court ordered the matter to be listed for hearing again on 9th November 2021.

It may be noted that on 7th October 2021 the Annapoorneshwari Nagar Police Station in Bengaluru filed an FIR against Sheth and Jain under the amendment Karnataka Police Act, 1963 for running online gaming through fantasy sports platform Dream11 where risking of money through stakes is involved.

Although its competitors such as MPL, My11Circle, Halaplay, and A23 had stopped operations on 5th October 2021 once the amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 made online gaming including any game played where risking of money is involved illegal.

Dream11 however had continued its operations even after the law came into force and the FIR was lodged, until 10th October 2021, when the fantasy sports company decided to suspend operations in the state keeping in mind the safety of players from the state.
On 22nd October 2021, Sheth and Jain filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, seeking quashing of the FIR filed against them.

Sheth in his petition has noted that no ingredients of offense are made out against them and that other online gaming operators who shut operations in Karnataka and prohibited accepting players from the state are engaged in ‘game of chances.’

He had further averred in his petition that the FIR was likely filed at the behest of its business adversaries in order to stop their legitimate business activities.