In a surprising ruling, a division bench of the Bombay High Court ruled that playing the game of poker amounts to gambling and is a game of pure chance, as per a report in DNA.
A division bench of the High Court comprising of Justices RM Sawant and Sarang Kotwal observed that poker cannot be a game of skill as a player simply gets the cards according to chance and the player who gets better cards wins.
According to media reports, the bench further noted: “We have perused the description of the game, we find that it is not a game of skill but of pure chance. Prima facie we find that a case under the gambling act has been made out.”
The court accordingly refused to quash the FIR under the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act filed by the Goregaon police against The Spartan Poker head of operations, Nasir Patel, who was allegedly found playing poker in a private apartment in 2016. The High Court had earlier stayed filing of chargesheet against Patel on the grounds that the copy of the petition served by Patel’s lawyer on the public prosecutor was not legible.
Patel in his petition has made a threefold argument seeking quashing of the FIR which names him as an accused. The first argument raised by him is that the game of poker was being played amongst friends in a private premises for entertainment purposes only, without any money or stakes.
Secondly, he pleaded that no license or permission is required for playing poker in a private premises amongst friends and that there was no law or rule violated in playing the game of poker. The third argument raised is that poker is a game of skill, exempt from the ambit of gambling under the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act.
His lawyer Ram Mani Upadhyay also submitted that the game of poker has been recognised by the High Courts of Karnataka and Calcutta. The public prosecutor on the other hand relied on the order of the single judge of the Gujarat High Court that ruled poker to be a game of chance that fell within the ambit of the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act.
A copy of the order and the exact ruling of the court has not been published yet. The decision of the court is however certainly going to be a huge setback for poker in India as it comes months after the Gujarat High Court’s judgement (which is now in appeal before a division bench of the same court).