Exclusive: AIGF, 3 others approach Karnataka High Court challenging ban on online games for stakes

In an expected development, gaming industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and at least three other online gaming companies, Head Digital Works Private Limited (the company that operates online rummy platform A23), Play Games24x7 Private Limited (the company that operates RummyCircle and My11Circle) and Gameskraft Technologies Private Limited (the company that operates RummyCulture and Gamezy) have filed writ petitions in the Karnataka High Court on Thursday challenging the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021.

As per the Karnataka High Court website, all four petitions have been acknowledged and number with Filing Registration (FR) number and are pending final registration, which will be done after examination of defects or errors in the petitions if any.

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With the High Court being on Dussehra vacation for the entire next week (except the vacation bench of the court functioning on Tuesday 12th October), it is likely that the petitions will get permanent registration numbers and be listed for hearing only after the High Court fully resumes its functioning on 18th October.

FR NumberPetitionersPet. Advocate
WP 15866/2021Play Games24x7 Private LimitedArjun PK
WP 15967/2021Gameskraft Technologies Pvt. LtdSiddhartha HM
WP 15868/2021Head Digital Works Private LimitedArjun PK
WP 15926/2021All India Gaming FederationPradeep Nayak
Data from https://karnatakajudiciary.kar.nic.in/

Update 1: Galactus Funware Technology Private Limited which operates Mobile Premier League (MPL) had also approached the Karnataka HC ( WP 15940/2021)

The petitions have challenged the constitutional validity of amendments to the Karnataka Police Act insofar as it has included any act of risking money on games of skill and removed exemption to wagering on games of pure skill from its ambit.

The petitions, citing a catena of Supreme Court and High Court judgments, including the recent landmark Madras High Court judgment (Junglee Games India Private Limited v. State of Tamil Nadu) striking down a law banning all online games for stakes submit that the right to carry on the activity of running online skill-based games for profit is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution and the new law imposing an outright ban on the activity is against all norms of proportionality.

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The petitioners have further averred that the ban is manifestly arbitrary, vague, and unreasonable and does not meet the test of proportionality and thus is liable to be struck down. The petitioners have also asked for interim relief in terms of staying the operational provisions of the new amendments and directive that the police and law enforcement authorities do not obstruct, disturb, or prevent the companies from carrying on their business activities.

Several Senior Advocates are expected to represent the petitioners when the matter comes up for hearing. The hearings and order of the Karnataka High Court are expected to have broader implications for the online skill-gaming industry and will be tracked closely.