Tamil Nadu Assembly re-adopts Bill against online gambling

The Bill was tabled again in the House since Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi returned it on March 6 saying it was ultra vires of the Constitution and against the judgments of courts.

March 23, 2023 01:54 pm | Updated March 24, 2023 03:06 am IST - CHENNAI

The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill was re-adopted by the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill was re-adopted by the Tamil Nadu Assembly. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly on Thursday, March 23, 2023 re-adopted the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, 2022 (L.A. Bill No. 53 of 2022) moved by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.

The Bill was tabled again in the House since Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi returned it on March 6 saying it was ultra vires of the Constitution and against the judgments of courts. The Bill was first adopted in the Assembly on October 19, 2022.

This is the second time the Tamil Nadu Assembly has re-adopted a Bill returned by the Governor. Last year on February 8, a Bill seeking exemption from NEET for admission into undergraduate medical degree courses was re-adopted.

AIADMK favours the Bill

The AIADMK spoke in favour of the Bill, but the MLAs led by former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami staged a walkout when the bill was taken up for voting on the ground that the splinter group of just four MLAs headed by O. Panneerselvam was allowed to speak on the Bill. 

BJP floor leader Nainar Nagenthran said that though his party was supportive of the Bill, the State government should constitute another expert committee to come up with recommendations and bring in such a Bill thereafter. 

Speaker M. Appavu said the State government had earlier constituted Justice K. Chandru Committee on whose recommendations the first Bill was adopted.

The Chief Minister said he was moving the Bill with a heavy heart since “44 persons had died by suicide after incurring heavy financial loss in online gambling.”

Anurag Thakur told Parliament that State govt has right to bring law against online gambling, says Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin | Video Credit: ANI

He also recalled the suicide note left by Suresh Kumar of Chennai, who had pleaded for a ban saying that he should be the last person to die and no one should leave their family in the lurch.

“Deaths are happening every day in front of us and the state government has the duty and responsibility to prevent them,” Mr. Stalin said.

He pointed out before introducing the original Bill, the government constituted a committee headed by former Judge of the Madras High Court K. Chandru to advise the government on the issue.

The committee submitted its report on June 27, 2022, and it was tabled before a cabinet meeting on the same day.

CM quotes survey

The School Education Department conducted a separate survey in July, 2022, to ascertain the impact of online games on students.

“A total of 2,04,114 teachers sent their response and 74 per cent of them were of the opinion that online games had affected the concentration of students. Sixty-four per cent teachers have said online games have a negative impact on the intelligence, writing skills, and creativity of students. The games also have affected self-esteem and discipline of students and triggered anger in them,” said the Chief Minister citing the study.

Mr. Stalin said the government also elicited opinion and views from the general public, parents, teachers, students, youth, mental health counsellors and social activists.’ A total of 10,735 mails were received from the public and 10,708 of them were for banning online gambling. Only 27 mails were in favour of online gambling,” he added.

A team of officials headed by the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary also had consultations with representatives of the online gaming industry, political parties, social activists and advocates on August 11 and 12, 2022.

“Based on the recommendations of the committee headed by Justice Chandru, the School Education department, and consultations with others a Bill was drafted and placed before the cabinet for approval on September 26,” the Chief Minister said.

An ordinance was promulgated by the Governor on October 1, 2022 and was notified in the gazette on October 3, 2022. It was followed by a Bill which was adopted in the Assembly on October 19, 2022 and was sent to the Governor for assent on October 26, 2022.

Mr. Stalin said instead of giving approval, the Governor sought some clarifications on November 23, 2022 and the government responded to him within 24 hours. The State Law Minister also met him personally on December 1, 2022, and submitted the details.

“But the Governor returned the Bill after 131 days with some notes. The questions raised by the Governor and his notes were placed before the cabinet and it approved the tabling of the Bill in the Assembly,” the Chief Minister said, explaining the reasons behind re-tabling the Bill.

Making an appeal to the members of the Assembly to unanimously adopt the Bill, the Chief Minister said it would be sent to the Governor again for his assent.

CM Stalin’s appeal

““The Bill was drafted not only with our intelligence but also with our heart. We may have political differences and it is natural, but anyone with a heart will not have two views on banning online gambling that has been claiming human lives. The state should not hear the cry of a person or a family. If it happens again it will amount to dilution of the meaning of law and the powers of the state. It is the duty of the government to maintain law and order and prevent crimes,” he said.

The Chief Minister also recalled Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur’s explanation in the Parliament (on March 21, 2023) that the states were empowered to enact laws banning online gambling under section 34 of the 7th schedule of the Constitution.

“I want to proclaim that we cannot keep aside our conscience and run the government. The object of any law is people’s welfare and their protection. Jurisprudence is a social science and it will be accepted by legal experts across the world,” he said.

(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104, Tele-MANAS 14416. and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050)

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