J. Venkatesan

Apex court refuses to stay High Court judgment

  • Bench says lottery is an evil
  • State asked to respond in four weeks

    New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the operation of a Kerala High Court judgment upholding the ban of online lotteries in the State.

    A Bench of Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Markandey Katju declined the stay, while hearing special leave petitions filed by All Kerala Online Lottery Dealers Association, the State of Sikkim and others questioning the ban.

    The Bench observed: "Lottery is an evil. It is nothing but gambling and several poor labourers had committed suicide. The ban must continue."

    The Bench issued notice to Kerala and other respondents and asked them to respond within four weeks and rejoinder if any in two weeks thereafter.

    Initially, the Kerala Government banned all lotteries in January 2005. In April 2005, the order modified the notification that the prohibition on online lotteries would continue but sale of paper lotteries conducted by the States, including Kerala would be permitted. Both a single Judge and a Division Bench of the High Court upheld such a ban. The present appeals are directed against this judgment, dated May 23.

    The petitioners contended that the State did not have legislative competence to ban online lotteries alone while permitting sale of paper lotteries. They said the impugned notification apart from being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution was contrary to the scheme of the Lotteries Regulation Act (LRA), 1998 and the judgment of the apex court.

    They said that the finding of the High Court that there was a marked distinction between online lottery and paper lottery and hence banning one and continuing the other could not be termed discriminatory was contrary to the very scheme of the LRA. It must be noted that the LRA contemplated only one class of lotteries and the Legislature in its wisdom had brought within its purview all kinds of lotteries without any distinction.

    They contended that if there was any violation, the State concerned should complain to the Union Government and it could not take action on its own. The High Court had committed an error in upholding the ban, they said and sought a directive to quash the impugned judgment and an interim stay of its operation.