The Jalpaiguri bench of the Calcutta High Court, in an order dated 29th August, 2019, stated that poker is ipso facto not included in the definition of gaming or gambling under Section 2(1)(b) of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, 1957 and directed that police cannot interfere in the games of poker played by members of a club.
Based on a petition filed by Indian Poker Association (IPA), alleging police harassment in poker games conducted by it at Hotel Tourist Inn, Siligui, a single judge bench of the Calcutta High Court (Jalpaiguri bench), Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya noted, “Since the game of poker ipso facto is not included within the purview of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957, without there being a specific complaint with regard to the petitioners resorting to gambling or other illegal activity in the name of poker, there cannot be any occasion for the police to interfere with such game.
“Accordingly, W.P.A. No. 394 of 2019 is disposed of by directing the respondents not to interfere with the games of poker going on between the members of the petitioner no. 1 at the rented room at the Hotel Tourist Inn at Sevoke Road in Siliguri, unless there is a specific complaint against the petitioners that they are resorting to gambling or undertaking any unlawful activity in the garb of the game of poker in the said room.”
The court reiterated a 2015 single judge bench order of the principal bench of the Calcutta High Court, based on a similar petition filed by IPA and ruled that police cannot interfere in poker games conducted by the club unless there is a specific complaint that they are resorting to gambling or resorting to any unlawful activity.
The court further cautioned the police that an ‘unlimited license’ is not granted to enter the poker room and go on a rampage in the garb of investigation.
Justice Bhattacharya added in the order that police can enter the poker room premises only with a specific arrest warrant and permission from appropriate authorities.