EXCLUSIVE: Supreme Court dismisses another SLP alleging Dream11 involved in online gambling

A division bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and BR Gavai dismissed another Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by a chartered accountant and social activist Avinash Mehrotra claiming that fantasy sport games like Dream11 amounted to gambling.

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Mehrotra had filed the SLP in August 2020 against an order of the Jaipur bench of the Rajasthan High Court dated 14th February 2020 in Chandresh Sankhla v. State of Rajasthan & Ors which had ruled that the question of fantasy sport games such as Dream11 amounting to gambling was no longer res integra and were adjudicated to be a game of skill by orders of the Bombay and Punjab & Haryana High Courts.

Accordingly, the Rajasthan High Court (Jaipur Bench) division bench comprising of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Ashok Kumar Gaur in its order has also ruled fantasy sports to be a game of skill, which was appealed to the Supreme Court by Mehrotra.

The matter was first listed for hearing on 28th June 2021 when a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Nariman, KM Joseph, and Gavai had granted Mehrotra two weeks’ time to file additional documents before the court.

However, Mehrotra had not filed additional documents till today’s hearing (30th July 2021) and asked for a further adjournment to place additional documents and judgments before the court.

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The court, however, declined to entertain this request and orally observed that the petitioner was trying to dodge the apex court by not filing additional documents on time.

Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Gopal Jain, appearing on behalf Dream11 co-founder Bhavit Sheth, (who had filed a caveat in the matter) submitted that Mehrotra was a busybody who has filed multiple petitions on the same issue and that the issue of whether Dream11 amounted to gambling was no longer an issue that was left to be determined by the apex court.

The bench further recorded the submissions of Advocate Prashant Kumar appearing on behalf of Mehrotra citing a New York Supreme Court judgment that ruled fantasy sports to be an activity involving gambling.

Not impressed by the averment, the court noted that the issue of whether fantasy sports is a game of skill or amounts to gambling is no longer res integra (a question yet to be determined) and stated that it had dismissed similar petitions against the Bombay and Punjab & Haryana High Court judgments from the year 2017 onwards and that it was not inclined to entertain this petition.

The court however also recorded that on 6th March 2020, a 3-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde had stayed the operation of a Bombay High Court judgment ruling Dream11 to be a game of skill and that it was paying Goods and Services Tax (GST) appropriately, based on a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state of Maharashtra, which will be decided by an appropriate bench.

Last week, the Rajasthan High Court (Jaipur Bench) comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Satish Kumar Sharma had dismissed yet another PIL filed by Udaipur resident Saahil Nalwaya asking the state government to frame legislation prohibiting or regulating online gaming, including fantasy sports.

By order dated 22nd July 2021, the court reiterated its previous judgment in Ravindra Singh Chaudhary v. Union of India & Ors., noting that fantasy sports games like Dream11 amounted to being a game of skill and a blanket prohibition on such games would be in violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.