Supreme Court adjourns hearing on Dream11 legality by 2 weeks

A 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman, KM Joseph and BR Gavai on Monday did not hear a crucial Special Leave Petition (SLP) questioning the legality of fantasy sports giant Dream11, filed by social activist Avinash Mehrotra.

The SLP challenges a Rajasthan High Court division bench (Jaipur Bench) judgment in Chandresh Shankla v. State of Rajasthan dated 14th February, 2020 which relying upon judgments of the Punjab & Haryana and Bombay High Courts, ruled that Dream11 is a game of skill and dismissed allegations of gambling and betting against it.

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Mehrotra in his SLP noted has alleged that the Rajasthan High Court has not properly applied legal tests to ascertain whether fantasy sports fall within the realm of game of skill. He has further alleged that the order of the Bombay High Court relied upon in the Rajasthan judgment has been stayed by the Supreme Court on 6th March, 2020 and is slated to be heard further, thereby meriting the fresh SLP to be also heard and conclusively determined.

However, before today’s hearing, Mehrotra’s lawyers circulated a letter seeking adjournment and time to file certain additional material in support of their contentions. While granting the request, the 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court adjourned the matter for 2 weeks. According to the automatic next tentative hearing date generated on the Supreme Court website, the matter is now slated to come up for hearing on 16th July, 2021.

The pending SLPs against orders of the Rajasthan and Bombay High Court judgments will decide the legality of fantasy sports and other online skill-based games conclusively. It remains to be seen whether in the next hearing, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Nariman will show inclination to issue notice and hear the current appeal preferred by Mehrotra in detail or summarily dismiss the matter.

Justice Nariman, however, is well versed with India’s fantasy sports scenario. Every time he’s heard the games of skill vs chance conflict, he’s ruled against those arguing in favor of wanting fantasy declared a game of chance and hence a form of betting.

Despite the many ambiguities regarding online gaming legislation and policies in the country, Dream11 has managed to win two High Court verdicts so far.