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Gujarat HC hears government's contentions on restricting poker, to continue hearing on 9th August



A single judge bench of the Gujarat High Court continued its hearing on the civil petition regarding the legality of poker. Justice Rajesh Shukla heard the contentions of the counsel for the state government at length over the course of the last couple of weeks and is slated to continue hearing the remaining submissions on 9th August.

The state government pointed out the ills of gambling and moral hazards associated with it. It also noted that betting or wagering on a game of chance for a reward or consideration would fall within the definition of gaming or gambling.

The government also noted that the power to regulate gambling vests with the state and even a mixed game of skill and chance can be prohibited. It noted that as observations in the Satyanarayana judgment of the Supreme Court, police can take action if there is proof of stakes or profit or gain from the activity of card games.

It also quoted the MJ Sivani v. State of Karnataka judgment of the Supreme Court to point out that trade and commerce activities like video games that could result in public injury, could be curtailed by the state as a reasonable restriction in the interest of maintaining public order.

The state government lawyers also discussed the history of poker, foreign judgments ruling poker to be a game of chance and how betting or gambling is essential to the game of poker.

The arguments in the case are however far from over. The state government is likely to bring to fore some more arguments in the matter next week after which the counsels for the petitioners are also likely to present their rejoinder.

In the meanwhile, Hetal Desai, Jaydeep Dawer of AAA Gaming Pvt. Ltd. and 30 other accused who were arrested in the Surat poker club raid in May 2017, have through a separate petition applied for quashing of the matter.  Justice AJ Desai of the Gujarat High Court while hearing the matter asked the police not to file the chargesheet without its permission, thereby giving temporary reprieve to the accused.

Justice Desai has also agreed to continue the hearing on whether the FIR filed for playing poker is maintainable or deserves to be quashed. The matter is now slated to come up for hearing on 28th September.

Jay has researched extensively on gaming laws and has been cited by various media houses and journals as an expert. He has helped leading newspapers in their stories on gaming laws. Jay completed his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NUJS, Kolkata in 2015 and is currently based out of Mumbai.