Kerala’s online rummy ban set aside by High Court

The Kerala High Court termed the Kerala government’s notification to ban online rummy was unconstitutional.

Thiruvananthapuram: Online rummy enthusiasts have good news flowing out of the corridors of the Kerala High Court. A Kerala government order that banned online rummy in the state was today quashed by the High Court, terming the government order as unconstitutional.

The Kerala government had brought about a ban on online rummy played for stakes by including it in the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. The state government had stated that it had to usher in steps towards bringing about a ban as there had been various cases of suicide reported across the country owing to online rummy.

The state government’s action was set aside by Justice TR Ravi of the Kerala High Court while allowing the petitions filed by online rummy gaming companies.

The petitioners had pleaded that banning the game by amendment to notification under Section 14A of Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 is unlawful. They substantiated their argument saying that such a notification from the part of the government violates Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. 

Petitioners list SC judgments stating rummy is a game of skill

Pointing out that the notification issued in 1976 had exempted rummy from the provisions of the Kerala Gaming Act, the petitioners said that a government notification of February 23, 2021, had brought online rummy played for stakes under the Act. They termed the government notification arbitrary and unreasonable, pointing out that it amounted to a violation of their fundamental right to do business.

The High Court ruled that the government notification banning online rummy was unconstitutional.  Stating that the government had no power to exempt a game of skill that was earlier outside the purview of the Act, the petitioners argued that the government’s notification is ultra vires the Constitution of India. They also put forward earlier Supreme Court judgments that had stated that rummy is primarily a game of skill.

High Court order welcomed

Soon after the Kerala High Court order came, The Online Rummy Federation (TORF) welcomed the decision. According to TORF, the federation welcomed the High Court’s forward-looking judgment closely following the positive decision taken by the Madras High Court last month.

“Both judgments clearly establish that online rummy is a game of skill and is protected under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. We sincerely hope that this will set the tone to establish a robust regulatory framework for the online skill-based gaming sector,” TORF added in media communication.

Besides, the federation added that it was keen on collaborating and supporting the Government of Kerala in developing a comprehensive regulation that will address all the issues of the state, citizens and the sector.

TORF added that online rummy continues to be enjoyed as a form of entertainment by a number of Indians across the country. Over the decades, several Supreme Court judgments have held rummy to be a game of skill and protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution, it said.

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