28 Nov 2019

Delhi HC disposes PILs against online betting, poker

Delhi High court

A division bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C. Harishankar disposed off two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed by social activist Avinash Mehrotra and lawyer Deepti Bhagat seeking action against offshore online betting websites and local online poker and card game websites.

The court through a common order directed the central government and the Delhi government to treat the petitions filed by Bhagat and Mehrotra as representations, and decide on banning websites like Betway, 1xbet, Dafabet, Adda52 and PokerStars.in referred in the pleas after ascertaining whether they hosted games of skills or chance.

The court said the governments while arriving at their respective decisions would also keep in mind the aspects of money laundering, FEMA violations and taxation of the gaming proceeds.

The centre through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had earlier through its affidavit submitted that blocking of online gaming sites, including those of card games, was “technologically infeasible” as many states have enacted laws which partially or fully allow such activities.

On the other hand, the Delhi government told the court it can only take action if a gambling site was being hosted in the national capital or if there were instances of offline gambling.

In May this year, social activist Avinash Mehrotra had filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court seeking an end to illicit online gambling/betting/wagering websites. Mehrotra had alleged that various foreign betting websites are illegally accepting payments from Indian users and allowing Indian citizens to bet vast sums of money, in contravention of FEMA and money-laundering regulations, without paying any taxes.

He had also alleged that several Indian companies are offering online poker, which according to him was a game of chance and hence not legal.

Last month, lawyer Deepti Bhagat had filed a similar petition arguing that several companies are offering online poker and card games, which are games involving luck. She further averred that licenses for offline events are also granted for such games and demanded strict action, including cancellation of licenses issued, if any to these websites and companies.

The Delhi High Court had tagged both Bhagat and Mehrotra’s petition through an order last month and today, it disposed off both PILs through a common order. The court has now entrusted the central government with the responsibility of taking a final call on whether to block offshore and domestic gaming websites.

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