The Madras High Court Bench here is set to decide whether gambling cases registered by police in Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli districts under the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, and pending before various courts are legally valid or not.
When a petition to quash one such case came up before Justice G.M. Akbar Ali on Wednesday, the petitioner’s counsel, Abudu Kumar Rajaratnam, contended that the 1930 Act stood repealed with respect to Madurai and Coimbatore in 1987 and the three other districts in 1997.
The lawyer said the Act was initially applicable to the whole of Tamil Nadu except Chennai city as mentioned in Section 2 of the legislation. It was made inapplicable to Chennai because the offence of gambling was covered under the Madras City Police Act, 1888.
Akin to the 1930 Act, the 1888 Act too defined the terms ‘gaming,’ ‘common gaming house’ and ‘instruments of gaming’ apart from prescribing punishments for indulging in gambling activities.
Therefore, the legislature in its wisdom thought it fit to exclude the 1930-Act in so far as Chennai city was concerned.
In 1987, the State Legislature passed the Chennai City Police (extension to the city of Madurai and to the city of Coimbatore) Act.
The objective behind the legislation was to extend the provisions of the 1888 Act in its entirety to Madurai and Coimbatore.
A decade later, another legislation — Chennai City Police (Extension to the cities of Salem, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli) Act, 1997 — was passed extending the 1888 Act to three more cities.
Such extension amounted to repealing the 1930 Act in the five districts, the counsel claimed.
Assisted by advocate F. Deepak, Mr. Kumar contended that despite the extension of Chennai City Police Act to five more districts, the police in those districts were continuing to file cases under the Gaming Act against alleged gamblers and the courts were also taking cognizance of them.
He said the case relating to the present quash petition was filed by Thilagar Thidal police here against a group of 41 individuals under Sections 8 and 9 of the 1930 Act for having allegedly played ‘Vettucheettu’ at Madurai United Club near railway junction last year.
The accused in the case included a 79-year-old doctor, four advocates with a bar experience of over 30 years, two former Deputy Superintendents of Police, one retired police inspector, a civil engineer, two Station Managers of Southern Railway and a chief train ticket examiner.
Though the prosecution claimed that the club was used as a gambling centre that also served liquor, the 41 petitioners claimed that they were actually playing rummy and not ‘Vettucheettu.’
They also accused the police of having foisted the case with the intention of closing down the club.