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30 Mar 2022

The Karnataka government has appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of the High Court quashing the online gaming ban law in the state. The law that imposed a sweeping ban on online gaming for stakes was notified in October last year. Defending the law before the High Court, it was contended that a law against online gaming is needed to maintain public order as cybercrime had reached epic proportions with the filing of 28,000 cases in the last three years. 

The state government also pointed out several people have committed suicide and families have been ruined due to online gaming. “Therefore, the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 made criminalised wagering, betting, or risking money on the unknown result of an event. It was specifically required suitably deal with the evolving situation arising from the ill effects of online gambling," the SLP appeal by the state government said. 

On February 14, a special bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justice Krishna S. Dixit struck down certain provisions of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 as ultra vires the constitution. The parties in the petitions challenging the Karnataka online gaming ban law concluded the oral arguments before the High Court on 22 December 2021. The petitioners include gaming companies, individuals, and industry bodies. 

The petitioners include gaming companies Mobile Premier League, Games24x7, Gameskraft, Head Digital Works Private Ltd, and Junglee Games along with industry bodies like All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS). The case which was initially listed before a single bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit was later transferred to a division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit.

The High Court also restrained the state enforcement agencies from interfering with the online gaming business and allied activities. However, it said that nothing in its judgment shall be construed to prevent appropriate legislation from being brought about the subject of betting and gambling in line with the Constitution. 

With the appeal, the Karnataka government joins Tamil Nadu which has a similar petition pending before the Supreme Court. The Tamil Nadu government moved the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court (MHC) order that struck down certain amendments introduced by the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, as unconstitutional in the matter of Junglee Games India Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. v The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors in August last year.  The special leave petition by Tamil Nadu raises a number of grounds/questions challenging the MHC judgement. 

In its appeal, the Karnataka government contended that the High Court had grossly erred in not taking into account the material produced by the state government with regard to cases registered by the police authorities, the manner in which various websites were misleading and exploiting the general public to part with huge money, etc. "The High Court also gravely failed to note the fact that betting or wagering on horse racing conducted only on the race track shall be permissible under the Karnataka Act, wherein the interference by authorities would effectively regulate the same, unlike the situation in online platforms," it claimed.

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