Hours after the Gujarat High Court sought response of the state government over the extension on ban on popular online games PUBG and Momo challenge, Rajkot City police on Wednesday evening lifted the ban with immediate effect.
“Taking into account the demand from youth, and after reviewing them, the notification issued by the office here is being cancelled effective from 8 pm on May 8, 2019,” Rajkot City police commissioner Manoj Agrawal said, adding that his office had banned the mobile phone games in “wider interest of youth”.
“In order to ensure that level of aggressiveness does not go up among children and youth, that studies of children and youth is not affected, and that their behaviour, language and development are not affected, notification had been issued under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure… prohibiting playing of PUBG game/Momo challenge,” the Wednesday’s notification stated.
Notably, the police commissioner had issued the notification banning the games on March 6 this year, underlining the same reason that the online game was adversely affecting behaviour, attitude and language of the youth.
Agrawal had then told The Indian Express that his office had banned it on the direction of the state government.
Rajkot was among the first few districts in the state to impose such a ban and had even arrested more than a dozen individuals, mostly college students, for allegedly playing the online games or having it on their mobile phones.
On April 28, Rajkot City police extended the ban till July 30, citing reasons of spurring violent behaviour in children and distracting young adults and children from studies.
The climbdown comes hours after the High Court, which is hearing a public interest litigation challenging the ban, sought response from the state government over the issue.
While hearing the PIL filed by Pruthvirajsinh Zala, a first-year law student from Ahmedabad’s Nirma University, the Bench of acting Chief Justice Anant Dave questioned the move of Rajkot city police to extend the ban on the game till July 30.
Justice Dave questioned the logic of police action while taking note that summer vacation would commence soon or have already started in most of the educational institutions.
Zala had filed the PIL on April 8, saying that the ban was in “violation of fundamental right to personal liberty and privacy”.
In his petition, Zala had stated, “When a citizen plays PUBG in her own house or in her balcony, it is their choice. It is respecting their right to privacy, their right to be left alone and their right to make choices. Arresting them would infringe this very constitutionally protected right.”
One of the contention raised by the petitioner was about the issuance of the notification under Section 144 of CrPC that empowers an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four persons in an area, and Section 37 (3) of Gujarat Police Act.
He had also challenged the extension on the ban, questioning the merit of the decision when the school board exams and other exams have already concluded.
The state government was expected to file its reply on Thursday.