In a first of its kind directive by a court in India, a single judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana High Court directed rummy clubs to install video/closed circuit cameras within their premises and link it to the nearest police station and the office of the Superintendent of Police having jurisdiction in order to ensure that illegal activities or other gambling games are not conducted in the garb of rummy.
Facts and case laws
Friends Cultural and Sports Society Club and some other recreational clubs had approached the Andhra High Court by way of writ petitions asking the court to direct police and law enforcement authorities to not interfere with lawful conduct of the game of rummy.
Justice AV Sesha Sai in the order elaborated the relevant case laws applicable to the game of rummy, including the 1967 Supreme Court judgment of State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana which held rummy to be a game of skill as well as the landmark 1996 Supreme Court in Dr. KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu, that affirmed the above 1967 ruling and further held that betting on horse races requires a substantial degree of skill.
Justice Sai also noted that two previous orders of the Andhra High Court D Krishna Kumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Executive Club v. State of Andhra Pradesh, have held that playing rummy even for stakes or money does not violate provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974.
While rejecting the Home Department’s reliance on the division bench judgment of the Madras High Court in Mahalakshmi Cultural Association, the Court remarked that the observations of the Madras High Court against rummy for stakes have already been withdrawn by the Supreme Court and hence reliance can no longer be placed on the High Court order.
Final verdict and implications
The Andhra High Court reiterated the previous position that the game of rummy cannot be interfered with by the police and law enforcement agencies irrespective of the amounts staked or wagered. To ensure that other games of chance like kotha mukkalu and three cards are not conducted by the rummy clubs, as alleged by the Home Department, Justice Sai directed all rummy clubs to install video cameras, i.e. CCTV cameras and store at least a fortnights’ footage. Further, to ensure that police can monitor any illegalities committed by clubs, the footage of the cameras is to be linked to the nearest police station and the office of the Superintendent of Police having jurisdiction.
The court has further given authority to the police to enter the premises of the rummy clubs in case there is any information of illegalities being committed by them. The single judge bench also noted that non-compliance of the directives, including the direction with regard to installation of CCTV footage by the clubs would mean that they are in violation of the orders of the court.
The decision of the High Court is a landmark one as it is for the first time that a court in India has evolved a unique mechanism to deal with allegations of running gambling dens in the name of rummy. Police are frequently known to allege that poker and rummy clubs run other games of chance and there are various charges made, which are difficult to verify. The judgment of the Andhra High Court will ensure that rummy clubs can operate legitimately without fear of being charged of running other gambling activities.
It is likely that rummy and poker clubs will use this judgment as a precedent both in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana as well as other jurisdictions to get similar directives from High Courts to restrict police interference and unnecessary harassment.