A day after Governor R.N. Ravi returned the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, adopted by the Assembly last year, a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin at the Secretariat on Thursday, decided to table a second Bill, reiterating the government’s decision to impose the ban.
Briefing journalists after the Cabinet meeting, Law Minister S. Regupathy said, “The Governor has said the House does not have legislative competence. We will say it has the legislative competence and would send it [back to him].” After the Bill was tabled in the House, if any fresh inputs were received from legislators, they would be incorporated, the Minister said.
Asked if it was possible for Tamil Nadu alone to impose a ban on online gambling when it was allowed in the rest of the country, Mr. Regupathy said, “It has to be banned across the country. Tamil Nadu would like to be a pioneer in imposing a ban. Once we ban, other States could take Tamil Nadu as a role model and follow suit.”
Asked what would the State government do if the Governor delayed his assent to the second Bill, too, as he did for forwarding to the President the Bill seeking exemption from NEET, the Minister said, “We will send it for the second time and if he sat on it, we will see what we can do.”
Replying to a query, Mr. Regupathy pointed out, “When the Bill is sent for the second time, there are no provisions whatsoever for the Governor to return it. We will say the legislation was brought in by List 34 in the State List [in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution] and your [the Governor] citing List 33 is not right. And hence the Bill should be accepted.”
The Minister said the State government had cited entries 1 (public order), 6 (public health), 33 (sports, entertainment, amusement) and 34 (betting and gambling) in the State List, but the Governor questioned the legislation on the grounds of skilled games. “We have differentiated between online games and offline games and how a programmer could influence the game when played online.”
During the time taken by the Governor to return the Bill, 12 human lives were lost in the four months, the Minister claimed. When asked about BJP State president K. Annamalai’s contention that the government did not provide valid explanations to the Governor, the Minister sought to know if Mr. Annamalai knew what transpired between the Governor and the government.
Citing the observations of the Madras High Court, which had dealt with a related case, the Minister contended the Legislature has competence to adopt Bill to that effect. “When it [the legislation] was legally challenged earlier, the court did not dismiss it on the ground that the Legislature did not have the competence but for other reasons,” the Minister said.
The court had said the government could bring in fresh legislation. “Thereby, the court has said the Legislature has the competence to bring in legislation. So, the fresh legislation was introduced in line with the court judgment.”
Governor Ravi had promulgated an ordinance banning online gambling last year and his predecessor Banwarilal Purohit had granted assent to the legislation enacted by the AIADMK government, Mr. Regupathy pointed out.
As for Mr. Ravi citing the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s draft amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Liability and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Minister said, “The Union Ministry has sought the Tamil Nadu government’s comments. We have submitted our objections clearly. This legislation is brought out to protect the people. We did not bring it out as eyewash.”