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Legal & Regulatory

PIL to Ban PUBG – Punjab Lawyer Compares it to Drugs

A new Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed to ban the multiplayer battle royale game PUBG by a lawyer named HC Arora from Chandigarh, Punjab. 

The High Court had earlier asked the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to take a decision on the matter.

The direction of the high court to consider and make a decision representation to ban PUBG is being examined by the ministry, as per VK Trivedi, Director, Cyber Laws and Security at the ministry.

As reported by BGR.in, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sent a communication to HC Arora.

In the PIL, HC Arora claimed that PUBG normalises violence and is addictive, leading to adverse effects on players’ mental and physical health. He also compared playing PUBG to drugs, a problem that has been prevalent among the state’s youth.

As per the PIL, school children, whose interest in studies is waning, become addicted to PUBG. The PIL also stresses that when one insists such children to quit playing the game, they tend to become aggressive and go in depression.

In the past, PUBG was briefly banned in Gujarat and Chennai. Last year, Police Commissioner Manoj Agrawal banned the game stating that it leads to violent attitude among youth, besides adversely affecting their studies, behavior, conduct and language.

In December 2019, H. Vasanthakumar, an Indian National Congress (INC) MP from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in a zero hour mention in the Lok Sabha, also urged the government to ban games like PUBG and Blue Whale, citing that such games have adverse effects on mental and physical health of children.

Even in China, the home country of the game, there were time-limiting sanctions on the game. In the past, in Nepal, Nepal Telecommunications Authority had ordered mobile providers, network service providers and ISPs to block PUBG. This order was later stayed by Nepal’s Supreme Court.

On the other hand, many studies, including a recent one at the Oxford University have findings opposing the popular beliefs, which state that video games do not have any effect on people’s tendencies towards violence.

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Legal & Regulatory

PIL in Supreme Court asks for SIT probe into match-fixing and betting in cricket matches

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court by retired bureaucrat Atul Kumar and journalist Shantanu Guha Ray seeking a probe into match-fixing and manipulation of cricket matches and rampant illegal betting, as per a report in legal news website Bar & Bench.

The petition, placing reliance on various news reports, statements by former cricketers, administrators and journalists alleges that the outcomes of most cricket matches are manipulated and fixed to benefit the massive illegal betting industry, the annual turnover of which they peg to be in the range of Rs. 7-8 lakh crore.

The petition contends that the illegal betting racket in India is controlled by the underworld mafia and fugitive mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. It further states that the massive transfer of funds for illegal betting is a risk to national and economic security.

The petitioners in their pray ask for a comprehensive Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the alleged ‘public fraud in the name of cricket’. The petition also asks for staying IPL and other domestic and international cricket matches until the fraud and illegalities plaguing the game of cricket (including the alleged match-fixing and betting rackets) are unearthed and those perpetrating criminal activities are brought to book.

A 3-judge bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar heard the matter on 2nd February and ordered a copy of the petition to be served to the central government so that the appropriate central agency can assist the court. The matter is now slated to be listed for hearing on 16th February, 2018.

Interestingly, a PIL to legalise and regulate cricket betting filed by Delhi resident Geeta Rani is pending before the same three judge bench of the Supreme Court since April last year. The Supreme Court had on 28th April, 2017 asked that the matter be tagged with the ongoing petition concerning various wide-ranging reforms in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has also filed an intervention application in Geeta Rani’s petition, endorsing the demand that cricket betting be regulated and permitted as a game of skill. However, the Supreme Court has not heard the matter yet and has not passed any specific order on the issue. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the PIL and AIGF’s intervention application on 23rd February, 2018.

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Legal & Regulatory

Supreme Court to hear cricket betting legalisation PIL on 14th July, matter tagged with BCCI reforms appeal

Exclusive The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking legalisation of sports betting has been listed for hearing on 14th July, 2017, along with the Cricket Association of Bihar matter, that has resulted in sweeping directions from the apex court, overhauling the functioning of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The PIL filed by Geeta Rani, wife of Advocate Reepak Kansal, has impleaded the central government, all state governments and governments/administrators of union territories as respondents.

The petition while seeking the court’s intervention and implementation of Chapter IX of the Lodha committee report that recommends legalisation and regulation of sports betting, states the following:

The game of cricket is considered as a game of preponderance of skill than that of chance and could be categorized as a “game of mere skill”.  The betting or wagering on the outcome of such cricket matches or the performances of such players or a team substantially depends upon the skill of a player and the same could not be called as a gambling. It is for this reason that the betting in cricket perse is not illegal nor is there is a presumption for illegality as made out by the provisions of the Public Gambling Act,1867(hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act, 1867’).  The Act, 1867 is a Central enactment operating in the said field but the provisions in the Act, 1867 are not sufficient to control such battings in the game of cricket only by a Central legislation.

The regulation of “betting and gambling” is a State Subject under Entry 34 of the List-II in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The studies conducted in 2013 by some Industrial Bodies/Associations had pegged the Indian Betting Market to be Rs.3,00,000 Crores (Rupees Three Lakh Crores only) and the same is USD $ 60 Billion. These facts were revealed by the Report of 2013 published by the F.I.C.C.I.

The Entry 34 of List-II of the Constitution of India explicitly Stated that the State Government has the right to legislate and make policies relating to gambling and betting. Unfortunately, none of the State Governments had legislate any effective legislations nor any policies nor guidelines to deal with the evil of betting on sports except to book the Punter/Bookies for the minor offence under the I.P.C. which neither acted as a deterrent to the commission of the said offences. There is no law which effectively deals with the on-line betting and that too in cricket.

The petition has further in its prayer requested the court to issue a writ of mandamus directing the central government to frame rules, regulations, guidelines or legislation to regulate sports betting and implement the recommendations of the Lodha committee.

Alternatively, the petition has asked a direction from the apex court to the state governments to regulate betting under the powers granted to them as per the state list of the constitution. The petition has also asked for a direction to the central government to amend provisions of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 and for including stringent provisions in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 to prevent match-fixing and illegal betting.

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Legal & Regulatory

PIL filed in High Court against Goa offshore casinos

Kashinath Shetye, a self-styled social activist has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court asking for closure of offshore casinos in the state and stating that the state government has violated two central laws, the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development & Regulations) Act, 2002 and the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime Zones Act, 1976.

Shetye in his petition has impleaded  group and subsidiary companies of Delta Corp and Pride Group, which operate the five offshore casinos, as well as the Chief Secretary, Under Secretary Home, Captain of Ports, Director of Fisheries, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Marine Police, Department of Tourism, GCZMA, GSPCB, Collector and Deputy Collector.

As per the petition, offshore casinos violate Section 3(2) of the Offshore Areas Act read with Section 2(n) of the Offshore Areas Mineral Act defines offshore area to mean territory beyond twelve nautical miles from the baseline. Further, Shetye has contended that as per the two central laws, the casinos have to be shifted outside the territorial waters of Goa, i.e. outside twelve nautical miles from the coastline.

He has also contended that the casino vessels have been anchored in Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) as well as No Development Zones (NDZ) and are violating several environmental laws and regulations.

The High Court while admitting the PIL has listed the matter for hearing on 4th October while also appointing a lawyer as an amicus curiae to assist Shetye and the court.

It appears though that both of Shetye’s contentions are frivolous and are unlikely to be accepted.  A National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench in Pune has already examined the issue of pollution and violation of environmental norms by offshore casinos in the past.

Additionally, as per Section 13A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, the state government is entitled to permit live gaming on offshore vessels as may be notified.  Since gambling and betting is a state subject, it is unlikely that the words offshore vessels have to be necessarily interpreted in  the light of central legislation pertaining to offshore mining and shipping.

However, since this PIL comes close to to elections in Goa, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already faced considerable flak and political heat over its alleged flip-flops on the casino issue, the government’s response and High Court’s order will be closely monitored.