In an interesting turn of events, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan Lokur and SA Bobde declined to adjudicate on the legality of online rummy in India in the Mahalakshmi Cultural Association “rummy for stakes” matter; since online rummy companies Head Infotech, Play Games 24×7, Junglee Games etc. were not parties to the Madras High Court judgment which was in appeal.
The bench in its observations however indicated that it would pass a ruling as regards the legality of offline or physical rummy in clubs and other locations within the coming weeks. While today’s order has not adversely affected online rummy companies who would continue their operations as usual, it has not brought conclusive clarity on the issue of rummy and other games of skill played online.
If the Supreme Court however gives a final order in favour of rummy clubs, it would still be a positive outcome for the gaming industry as the only major issue that would be left to be decided in future litigation would be whether there is any difference in level of skills of rummy played online and physically. Full details of the matter however could not be confirmed at this stage as the order is yet to be made available.
The events that transpired in court today are indeed an anti-climax and industry observers are disappointed that it took three years for the Supreme Court to decide what could have been concluded in couple of hearings. The only persons who seem to have benefited significantly from the matter are the battery of lawyers that appeared for the rummy companies and clubs.
Senior counsels Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and CU Singh appeared for the online rummy companies in the final hearings, while various senior advocates such as P. Chidambaram, UU Lalit (now Supreme Court judge), KV Vishwanathan and Kapil Sibal appeared for the companies in previous hearings. L. Nageshwar Rao (now Additional Solicitor General of India) previously appeared for Mahalakshmi Cultural Association. The rummy companies’ senior counsels were assisted and briefed by by Raian and Manik Karanjawala (of Karanjawala & Co.) and Advocates on Record (AORs) Siddharth Singla, Sunil Fernandes and Ashok Mahajan. The State of Tamil Nadu was represented by Additional Advocate General Subramonium Prasad, Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and AOR B. Balaji.
Note: Complete analysis and implications of the judgment will be given in a separate article as soon as the order copy is available.