Kerala High Court legalizes online rummy

 · 4 mins read

Recently Kerala High Court legalized online rummy which was banned by the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. Though rummy was excluded under the 1960 Act the State government had issued a notification dated 23 February, 2021which banned the online rummy for stakes. The bench headed by Justice T R Ravi, held that such a ban was unconstitutional and violative of Article 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Over the past few decades there has been a lot of confusion and lack of clarity in laws relating to gambling and other similar activities. Especially with the advent of online gaming and gambling activities it has become even more confusing when we are following the age old law enacted during the Britisher’s era.

In Indian legal perspective, the legality of games depends on the type of game it is. Games of chance and games of skill are the two types. Those which involve games of skills are legalized in India and when a game involves both skill and chance then the court will look into the more dominant one i.e., whether there is a dominance of skill or chance. If skill then it will be legal and vice- versa.

However, a lot of games are such that the courts have never been able to come to a proper conclusion. Earlier there was a confusion regarding tambola and certain other games and the answer is still not clear.

In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanayana and ors1 . It was held that game of rummy is not illegal as it involves certain amount of skills displayed by the players unlike in three card games.

In the case of Dr. R.K. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu2, the ‘game of skill’ was defined as “the game in which one’s superior knowledge, training, attention experience and adroitness is applied.” So horse racing is legal as it involves evaluation.

Now the Kerala High Court has legalized the online rummy and also stated that the addiction of its players cannot be the mere ground of banning it by branding it as a game of chance. The case was instituted when several enterprises working in the state faced issues regarding online rummy games. The opposing counsel had contended that online rummy is predominantly a game of chance and involves cheating by manipulating the cards. The High court by relying on several other state and Supreme Court judgments arrived at the conclusion that online rummy is legal and whether or not playing on stakes does not render it to be either a game or skill or chance.

Earlier, the Law Commission of India had stated that the pre-independent laws regarding gambling is obsolete and it needs to be repealed. Then following some match fixing reports the Supreme Court appointed “Lodha Committee” to enquire into such matters and it suggested that betting on cricket should be legalized. Afterwards the Law Commission headed by the former Supreme Court Judge B.S Chauhan made recommendations for legalizing certain gambling on sports and to bring a nationalized regime for gambling.

Finally, in 2018 the Law Commission of India published its report stating the following recommendations-

• It suggests that betting or gambling should be allowed only to licensed operators. • It suggests relaxing the rules under Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 to allow investment in this field. • The report suggests for certain amendments in the existing laws such as to bar only illegal intermediaries in gambling, introducing an exception for licensed betting and gambling activities, Section 30 of IPC to be relaxed in case of licensed operators and match fixing and other offences to be met with severe punishments.

To sum up, the recent judgment of Kerala High Court is a welcome measure for many enterprises involved in developing such online games. Rummy has the potential to earn huge sum of money. However, a section of the State is unhappy about its decision as many are getting addicted to such online games and to an extreme end people even take their own life. People lose money and gradually end up losing everything they have. On the other hand some say it is a good decision as even lotteries are legal. Lotteries does not primarily involve any skill yet States promote it. Hence, rummy as a game must be legal.

[1] AIR 1968 SC 825. [2] 1995 6 scc 289.

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