The Madras High Court on Thursday directed a cultural association of T. Nagar to not allow its members or guests to play rummy with stakes and make a profit or gain. The police can take action if any illegal activity is carried on in the association premises, it said.

A Division Bench comprising Justices D. Murugesan and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja passed the judgment on an appeal by police against a single Judge's order on November 4 last year.

Originally, the Mahalakshmi Cultural Association filed a writ petition seeking an order to forbear the police from interfering in any manner in the association's activities, including that of playing rummy with or without stakes and also from harassing its members and guests. As rummy was a game of skill and not gambling, the association sought directions in the writ petition.

A single Judge having found that rummy was a game of skill and that the police could not treat it as an illegal activity, disposed of the petition with directions which included that the association should not indulge in any illegal activity other than playing rummy (13 cards) with stakes by its members and guests.

Challenging this, the Director-General of Police and other police authorities filed the present appeal.

Modifying the single Judge's order, the Bench said rummy was only a game of skill even though an element of chance was also involved. If the game was played by the members or guests without stakes, the Chennai City Police Act would not be attracted.

The Bench said a finding of the Supreme Court that rummy was a game of skill should be understood in the context it was rendered in, on the basis of evidence adduced by prosecution in that case. A reading of the judgment appeared that in the event rummy was played with stakes the police had the authority to take action under the Chennai City Police Act even though the game involved a skill and in that event, Section 49 (Saving of games of skill) could not be pressed into service.

Though the provision excluded the provisions of Sections 42 to 48 in the event rummy which was a game of mere skill was played, nevertheless, the said provision should be understood to mean that so long as the game was played without stakes, the penal provisions were not applicable.

On the other hand, in the wake of the definition of “gaming” in the law, in the event rummy was played with stakes, it would amount to gambling. In that event Section 49 could not be pressed into service.

The Bench said in respect of the FIR registered against 56 persons and others who were said to have indulged in illegal gambling as per a raid in August 2011, the police could proceed further and it was for the association, its members and their guests to defend the same as the criminal action was initiated after a valid raid by the police. The police should not disturb the association frequently under the guise of inspection without there being any reliable information regarding illegal activities of the association or its members or guests, the court said.

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