The PIL comes following the recent incident where a man from Chennai died by suicide allegedly after he lost all his savings on an online gambling app.

Collage of Virat Kohli in a yellow t shirt and Tamannaah in a green dress
news Law Sunday, August 02, 2020 - 10:02

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition has been filed seeking the arrest and prosecution of test cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Tamannaah for endorsing online gaming apps. The PIL, which has been filed in the Madras High Court, seeks a direction to shut down online gaming sites and to arrest and prosecute promoters and its brand ambassadors. The petition comes following the recent suicide of a youngster from Chennai who, according to his suicide note, was addicted to gambling and lost all his savings and the additional money, which he took from his employer, on an online gambling app.

The petitioner, AP Suryaprakasam, an advocate at the Madras High Court, has also sought a direction to arrest and prosecute test cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Tamannaah for endorsing the online gaming apps. He states in his PIL that their role has been in abetting youngsters to gamble online and that according to the law, both playing and abetment to play gambling is a criminal offence.

Queried on the rationale of his plea for arrest and prosecution of Kohli and Tamannaah as they are just paid brand ambassadors, the petitioner told IANS, "They are the major influencing factor. Gambling is evil and they are promoting it. As a matter of fact, the amended Consumer Protection Act has a provision that for false advertisements the brand ambassadors are responsible."

According to the advocate-petitioner, the brand ambassadors cannot wash their hands off this, saying that they are just paid performers - ‘just like an arrow while the archer is the wrongdoer’. "The online gaming addiction, after some time, leads to domestic violence to raise money or heavy borrowing to play," he said and added, "No other sports body promotes the game saying the earning potential. When there is a monetary element involved in a game then it is nothing but gambling."

In the petition he had said online gambling sites are more dangerous than the Blue Whale game since, in the former, the victim not only spends their money but also spends their family members' money, putting them in a financial burden.

He said the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court suo motu took up a case against the Blue Whale game and directed the government to ban it. Suryaprakasam said initially the youngsters are lured into gambling by the initial bonus being offered by these gambling sites. "After losing heavily and unable to raise any further resources within their house, these youngsters are forced to borrow money at an exorbitant rate of interest, and in some cases, they go to the extent of committing a crime to raise money to gamble. Subsequently, when they are not able to return or repay the debt they die by suicide," he said in his plea.

Recently, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court suggested that the Tamil Nadu government enact suitable laws to regulate the online gaming industry. Citing the laws against lottery and charging of usurious interest enacted by the Tamil Nadu government, the court hoped that it will also take note of the present alarming situation and pass suitable legislation to regulate and control online gaming through a license, keeping in mind the law of the land as well as the judicial precedents in this regard.

(With IANS inputs)

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