Karnataka Gaming Ban Case: No action against petitioners, matter now posted for November 11

On Thursday, the Karnataka High Court continued to hear the arguments in the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021 for the second day in a row.

Senior Advocate Arvind P. Datar appeared for the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), the Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for GamesKraft. Gaming unicorn MPL was represented by Senior Advocate DLN Rao while Advocate General Prabhulinga Navadgi appeared for the state. Senior Advocate Poovayya represented Play Games 24×7, Head Digital Works, and Junglee Games.

Beginning the day, DLN Rao referred to Shayara Bano v. Union of India, (2017)9SCC1 to state a statutory provision can be struck down on the ground of manifest arbitrariness. Singhvi submitted that online rummy is a transparent activity as it is digitally recorded and contains several safeguards with regard to the participation and registration of players.

According to him, the inclusion of the word “pure skill” in the new legislation virtually means banning all activities of skill games as no skill game is or can be 100% game of pure game of skill. He submitted that rummy, bridge, chess are well-established games of skill.

Singhvi also relied on recent judgements from the Madras High Court and Kerala High Court dealing with games of skill. He added that paternalism has to be proportional and gave examples of cigarettes and human trafficking while adding that the law doesn’t ban tobacco.

Poovayya argued that if legislation is ex facie unconstitutional, it can be stayed referring to farm laws case and Maratha reservation case as examples. Earlier in the day, Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi sought more time to reply to the contentions of each petitioner. Bench permitted the request saying that it is fine subject to the petitioners not being unnecessarily harassed in the meanwhile.

The matter has now been adjourned to November 11. An oral assurance was given by the A-G that no precipitative action will be taken against the petitioners, including some players as well. The hearing remained inconclusive for the day.