Ludo matter in Bombay High Court: Next hearing on 8 July

The latest installment of the much-anticipated matter in the Bombay High Court of whether ‘Ludo is a game of chance or skill?’ played out on Tuesday. The matter, resulting from a petition by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Keshav Mule against Cashgrail Private Limited (owner of Ludo Supreme app), was posted for hearing on 8 July 8 2021 by the bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar.

Mule’s plea contends that playing Ludo for stakes is akin to betting or gambling. Hence, permitting such a game would violate section 4 of the Gambling Act, resulting in the establishment of a ‘common gaming house.’

According to an update by Bar and Bench, Sr Adv Amit Desai appearing for the Cashgrail Private Limited argued that the police and magistrate, on conducting a preliminary enquiry in matter, had found no evidence and thereby sought directions to add him as a party.

The court asked Adv Nikhil Mengde (for the petitioner), and Desai to submit judgments on the proposition that the company be added as a necessary party.

“There is no urgency in this petition. Just show us judgments, and then we will consider this issue,” the Court said.

On 3 June, the vacation bench of the Bombay High Court issued a notice to the Maharashtra government in response to an application demanding an FIR against Cashgrail Private Limited that hosts Ludo for money on its app Ludo Supreme.

The challenge was to a Metropolitan Magistrate’s order, on 2 February 2021, at the Girgaon court that had rejected the private complaint, refusing to direct the police to register an FIR under the Prevention of Gambling Act and other offences under the IPC.

The magistrate had ruled that Ludo is a game of skill since the element of winning relied on a participant’s competence instead of luck.

The applicant was represented by Senior Advocate Raja Thakare, who argued in front of a bench of Justices SS Shinde and Abhay Ahuja, that the magistrate’s order was “erroneous,” and Ludo is a game of chance and not skill, adding that the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act would apply if the game is played for money.

As per the applicant, he filed a complaint against the Ludo Supreme owner on 3 November 2020, after noting that minors were indulging in online Ludo for money on the app. As per the police, however, no FIR was filed and just a preliminary investigation was conducted.

The argument before the HC is that the app permits players to bet money and play the game in two modes –  ‘online mode’ or ‘with friends’. When opting to play using the former, one can join a ‘table’ on paying an entry fee, with the winner being rewarded with money. Thakare argued that the winning move is dependent on the roll of dice, an event that relies on chance rather than skill.