Law panel in moral quandary

Commission seeks public’s views on legalising gambling and betting

The Law Commission on Tuesday sought views from the public and stakeholders on whether or not gambling and betting are “morally correct in the Indian circumstances”.

Primarily, it wants public inputs on the question of legalising gambling and betting — conducted clandestinely across the country and the cause of ruin for many families.

Views would be compiled for a report to be handed over to the government. The question came up after the Supreme Court asked the commission to study the possibility of legalising betting in the backdrop of the IPL betting scandal.

The questions

The various questions the commission wants to generate opinion on include whether legalising betting and gambling will help in curbing illegal activities; will licensing gambling and betting help the government earn substantial revenue and generate employment; is legalising betting and gambling morally correct in the Indian circumstances; what can be a possible model by which people engaging in such activities can be safeguarded against bankruptcy; if legalised, should foreign betting and gambling companies be allowed to have a foothold in the country.

Grey area

The law on gambling is a grey area and a topic of debate for years.

Gambling is covered under an archaic law, the Public Gambling Act of 1867. The Constitution has enabled the States to enact their own gambling legislation. However, there is no uniformity in the various State laws and most of these laws pertain to physical gambling and not online or virtual gambling, which is seen to be a route to crime, corruption and money laundering.

Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000 vaguely prohibits online transmission and publication of material which “corrupt” persons.

Parallel economy

“Families are rendered bankrupt and many people are behind bars... Online gambling and betting is another area which has become very difficult to curb. It is understood that a lot of money is involved in illegal gambling business, creating almost a parallel economy, converting legally earned money into black money that is drained to gambling operators in other countries online,” Justice Chauhan wrote in the signed public appeal.

The Commission noted that both gambling and betting are closely associated. The Commission has found that the strict rules against betting and gambling are hardly a deterrent against clandestine activities.

The legality of various activities which involve betting like horse races and card games have come up before the Supreme Court. In K.R. Lakshmanan vs State of Tamil Nadu case, the court concluded that horse racing was a game of skill rather than chance.

In State of Andhra Pradesh vs K. Satyanarayana & Ors, the court held that rummy is a game of skill and not entirely based on chance.

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