The gaming companies that moved the HC opined that banning online playing of rummy is arbitrary when the physical format of the card game is permitted.

A person's hands holding a mobile phone horizontally in which a card game is played against a green background
Atom Law Monday, September 27, 2021 - 18:42

The Kerala government's notification to ban online rummy was set aside by the High Court on Monday, September 27. The court said that the game would not amount to gambling, as claimed by the Left Democratic Front government of the state. Justice TR Ravi, who headed the bench, set aside the government’s ban, saying it was “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional”. 

The order came on the petitions by four online gaming companies against the state government's notification banning online rummy. The state government was of the view that online rummy played for stakes amounts to gambling, and was thus prohibited. The gaming companies opined that banning online playing of rummy was arbitrary when the physical format of the card game was permitted.

Live Law reported that the High Court had been hearing the matter for more than two months. The government had issued the notification banning online rummy in February this year, saying that the game was not exempt from the prohibitions which come under Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, when it is played for stakes. 

Advocates for the four online gaming companies (petitioners) said that online rummy cannot be banned merely by a notification under section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act. They referred to the Supreme Court order in an earlier case, in which rummy was held as a "game of skill" (as opposed to a game of stakes).

In January 2021, a 28-year-old man died by suicide in Kerala after he lost several lakhs of rupees playing online rummy. VH Vineeth, an employee of the Indian Science and Research Organisation (ISRO), reportedly began playing the game during the COVID-19 lockdown and lost about Rs 21 lakh within months. He had reportedly taken loans from private banks for playing.

In February, the High Court had asked the state government to decide if online gambling and betting games will come under the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act. It was after this that the government issued the notification declaring online rummy illegal.

(With PTI inputs)