The Bombay High Court on Friday allowed two weeks time to the Maharashtra government to file its reply to a public interest litigation demanding that a four- decade-old law which makes it legal to run casinos in the state be brought into force. The advocate appearing on behalf of the state government admitted in court that a law legalising casinos existed in the state but the government had failed to apply its mind on the subject for the past four decades.
A division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Justice VM Kanade and Justice BP Colabawalla, asked the state government to take a stand on the issue within a fortnight and inform the court whether it intends to implement this law. On 17th March 2015, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah had asked the state government to take a stand on the issue, but the government has been unable to make up its mind till date.
According to the petitioner, Jay Sayta, the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act was passed by the Assembly and published in the government gazette in July 1976. However, it has not been notified yet. Sayta found out through the Right to Information that the Act received the Governor’s assent on July 22, 1976. Last December, he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis requesting him to notify it but there was no reply.
The Act provides for licensing of casinos, permitting certain types of casino games, taxation of the money paid or agreed to be paid by the participants by way of stakes or bets, etc.
Goa and Sikkim are the only two states which currently allow casinos, the PIL says, alleging that government of Maharashtra has “arbitrarily and unreasonably” kept in abeyance the Act by not notifying it. The petition adds that the government has committed a constitutional fraud by not implementing the will of the people as reflected through the law enacted by the legislative assembly.
(With PTI inputs)