directed the state government to look into the issue of online
gambling, and take action in accordance with the law in larger
public interest before it is too late.
The court said the existing Gujarat Prevention of
Gambling Act-1887 remains completely silent on the issue, more
particularly online rummy, even as the Internet gambling
presents "many of the same concerns that the traditional
gambling activities have raised throughout the years".
A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and
Justice J B Pardiwala in its September 29 order, which was
made available on Tuesday, pointed out that the amended
definition of ''common gaming house'', as per the Telangana
Gaming Act, 1974, indicates that gaming includes online gaming
for money or any other stakes.
The HC also said that while the Supreme Court has held
rummy as a game of skill, "the moot question is whether what
is being played is rummy in its true sense or it is just pure
and simple gambling".
The bench directed the Gujarat government to deal with
the issue of online gaming which involves gambling, as gaming
is a subject matter of the state government according to List
II of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India.
"If any website is operating from the state of Gujarat
or is engaged in any gambling games, the state shall deal with
the same in accordance with law, rules, regulations and the
policy as may be applicable," it said.
The state shall also examine whether such games result
in money-laundering or violation of laws related to foreign
exchange as well, it said.
"We expect the state government to promptly look into
the aforesaid issues and take an appropriate decision in
accordance with law in larger public interest before it is too
late," the court said.
The order came on a PIL filed by advocate Amit Nair,
who sought the court''s direction to declare online gambling in
virtual space/world wide web/cyber space, through mobile
applications as well as through computers, more particularly
online rummy, as bad and illegal.
The court said, "Internet gambling presents
essentially many of the same concerns that the traditional
gambling activities have raised throughout the years:
uneasiness about the morality of the activity; the likelihood
of addiction; the possibility of fraud; and the conflict
between the state versus central regulations."
"The questions of morality primarily surface in
connection with the Internet gambling''s accessibility to
children, because children have potentially unlimited access
to the computers and the Internet," it observed.
It is possible that without proper monitoring, they
may access the gambling websites "as readily as they could
access indecent materials," the HC said.
"The supporters of a ban of Internet gambling maintain
that outlawing the activity for all individuals is the only
way to ensure that a segment of the population, children, will
be adequately protected from corruption," it said.
Observing that the applicant has pointed out
"something very important in public interest," the high court
called upon the government to do the needful.
The court observed that the Gambling Act, 1887 remains
"completely silent" on the aspect of online gambling, more
particularly online rummy.
This means an individual would get arrested only if he
is caught playing rummy/cards outside/in a gambling den in
Gujarat, as per the definition of the term ''common gaming
house'' under section 4 of the Act, whereas an individual
playing online rummy cannot be arrested or booked for the
offence of gambling, it said.
The petitioner submitted that online gambling
websites/mobile apps are mushrooming at an alarming level.
He also said several online gambling apps are promoted
in Gujarat as well, with estimates putting online rummy as a
Rs 2,200-crore industry in India, accounting for half of the
country''s online gaming business.
Even when such gambling platforms engage in illegal
activities, the same remains unchecked/uncontrolled "due to
certain deficiencies in the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling
Act, 1887," Nair''s lawyer Bhargav Hasurkar submitted.
He said the present legal framework in reference to
gambling should be regulated to include the virtual or
online/cyber space aspects. PTI KA PD