HC strikes down law banning online gaming

Govt. restrained from interfering with online gaming business and allied activities of petitioners

Published - February 14, 2022 09:36 pm IST - Bengaluru

In a relief to online gaming operators and players, the High Court of Karnataka on Monday declared as unconstitutional certain provisions of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, which prohibited and criminalised the activities of offering and playing online games, by risking money or otherwise.

“The provisions of Sections 2, 3, 6, 8 & 9 of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021 are declared to be ultra vires of the Constitution of India in their entirety and accordingly are struck down,” the court said

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S. Dixit, delivered the verdict while allowing the petitions filed by associations of gaming operators, such as Online Gaming Federation, Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, and a few individuals who are online gaming enthusiasts.

‘Far excessive in nature’

The Bench also restrained the Government from interfering with the online gaming business and allied activities of the petitioners while making it clear that nothing in this judgment shall be construed to prevent an appropriate legislation being brought about ‘Betting & gambling’ in accordance with provisions of the Constitution.

These games are rummy, carrom, chess, pool, bridge, crosswords, scrabble and fantasy sports such as crickets.

“In the considered view of this court, the impugned legislative action that has clamped an absolute embargo on all games of skill defies the principle of proportionality and is far excessive in nature and therefore violates Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground of manifest arbitrariness,” the Bench said.

The also observed that “When a statute is obscure or admits plural meanings with little for a common citizen to choose between them, there is absolute intractability of the language used. They operate as statutes of violence to the sensible citizens since they do not allow them to live securely under the rule of law.”

The Bench also said that “the Amendment Act suffers from the infirmity of this kind inasmuch as Section 2(7) which encompasses all games regardless of skill involved, renders the charging provisions of the Principal Act so vague that the men of common intelligence will not be in a position to guess at its true meaning and differ as to scope of its application and therefore, is liable to be voided.”

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