The Centre has left it to the Supreme Court (SC) to decide on whether rummy, poker and other card games, played online or in clubs for stakes, amount to gambling. These games would come under the ambit of gambling and thus illegal only if it is held that they involve sheer luck and no skill.
The Centre on Thursday told a bench of Justices FMI Kalifulla and S K Singh that it was a question of law, which the Supreme Court should decide in the wake of divergent views expressed by the different high courts.
The SC was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by clubs and online rummy companies against the Madras High Court verdict that declared rummy for stakes as a form of gambling and hence illegal. However, the high courts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh found rummy as a game of skill and said it was not illegal. Last week, the SC bench included Union government as a party in the case.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General L Nageswara Rao on Thursday expressed his inability to appear further in the case since he had once represented one of the petitioners. He, however, told the court that Attorney General or the Solicitor General of India will appear before the bench next time with a formal reply.
During deliberations, he said the question of legality of such card games should be left to the SC to decide.
On the specific question of whether online rummy and other card games were legal or not, Rao told the court that online contents are already regulated under the Information Technology Act. But whether rummy played for stakes is an offence or not, he said it has to be first adjudicated upon. He did not make a specific statement regarding the government’s stand on whether online card games are currently legal or illegal in India.
Rao said if the SC holds the card games for stakes as gambling, the states could accordingly proceed against such activities as per their existing laws. But if the SC rules otherwise, it would then require certain uniform regulations across the country and the Centre will have a role to play. The court will hear the matter next in November.