Matters Of The State: Indian Government Informs Court On Plea To Regulate Online Games

The matter has been deferred by the Indian court to Oct. 11.

<p>Issues relating to online 'gambling' games expressly falls under the domain of the states and some states have already enacted laws to regulate online games. (Michał Parzuchowski/Unsplash)</p>

NEW DELHI — Through an affidavit, the Indian Ministry of Electronics Information and Technology informed an Indian Court that the issues relating to online ‘gambling’ games expressly fall under the domain of the states, and some states have already enacted laws to regulate online games.

The affidavit has been filed in a plea seeking to ban online gambling websites. 

The petition said that the petitioner has failed to implead States as parties to the case, which are the appropriate government in regulating “betting or gambling.” 

The state replied that proper adjudication is not possible unless States are made parties, in this case.

The bench of Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of the Delhi High Court on Aug. 25 deferred the matter for Oct. 11, after taking note that the petitioner has yet to be served with the reply copy.

It is reiterated that states must ensure that their laws have adequate regulatory provisions to prohibit online gambling for effective enforcement. 

As per the legislative mandate drawn under the Constitution of India, which expressly denotes the States to regulate “betting and gambling,” the Ministry of Electronics Information and Technology cannot be saddled with a duty to control such online gambling websites or lotteries, said the Centre’s reply.

The Delhi High Court had earlier issued notice to the Central government on a public suit seeking direction to ban and prevent online gambling websites from operating in the country.

Avinash Mehrotra filed the plea represented through advocates Awantika Manohar, Siddharth Iyer, and Prashant Kumar, who sought directions to the concerned ministry of the Center to take steps to recover taxes due from both persons who played such online gambling, and more importantly, those who run and operate these websites.

It also sought an appropriate writ, order, or direction, directing the respondents to prosecute the unscrupulous owners/ proprietors, and the promoters of the online gambling websites, under the law.

The plea said that gambling or wagering on games of chance is per se illegal according to the laws of our country, and most state legislations have expressly forbidden the same. 

It sought the quashing of orders dated Oct. 21, 2020, issued by the Union of India, stating that it does not have the competence to block gambling and betting websites in India.

“It is submitted that despite the presence of these provisions, a large number of websites can be accessed in the territory of India, through appropriate devices, and a person is free to gamble with cards or bet on the outcome of sport results, etc.,” the plea said.

The petitioner also said that under the laws of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, gambling had been prohibited by the Delhi Public Gambling Act, 1955. Most states have similar acts in force, which forbid gambling.

“It is submitted that all these activities, though expressly prohibited by law, are being carried out because of a lack of enforcement of the laws in question,” the plea said. “Thus, despite being per se illegal, these gambling websites are being permitted to operate and drive normal people towards economic and financial as well as social ruination.”

“Online gambling by itself is an addictive activity, and those currently addicted to this activity are not in the correct frame of mind to take steps to protect themselves and the public at large from this menace.” 

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Praveen Pramod Tewari