The issues related to gambling expressly fall under the states’ domain, and thereby, only the state government is responsible for taking action against online gambling websites, the Centre informed the Delhi High Court earlier this week.
The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing a PIL seeking a ban on websites involved in gambling and betting in the country.
The Centre’s response in the matter said,
“Online games and regulation of gambling-related activities are governed only under state laws. Any illegality or violation of these laws should be dealt with according to the respective state law only.”
The Centre has taken strong objection to the allegation that it was the sole competent authority to issue appropriate guidelines for banning online gambling, and submitted that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is not the appropriate authority to regulate online gambling websites, or to direct any intermediary to block any online gaming or gambling websites.
An action by the Centre to traverse law or legislative mandate and regulate online gambling or gaming websites, will result in a conflict of powers vis-a-vis with the state government, claimed the Centre. In this regard, the Centre has urged that the plea is not maintainable against the Centre and that state governments be impleaded in the array of parties for effective adjudication of the issue as “betting and gambling and its taxation thereof” is placed under the state list in the Constitution.
The PIL was filed by one Avinash Mehrotra, a Chartered Accountant and social activist, through Advocates Prashant Kumar, Siddhartha Iyer, Saurabh Suman Sinha and Awantika Manohar. It alleges: “Gambling leads individuals to depravity, and makes them gamble with their fortunes as a result of which a large number of persons face financial, economic and family crises.” The petition has contended that despite there being enacted state legislations prohibiting gambling, a large number of websites can be accessed in the territory of India that provides for gambling. The plea has raised questions over the lack of enforcement of the law as these activities are being carried out, despite being expressly prohibited by law.
In addition to a ban on such websites, the plea also prays for recovery of taxes due from the persons who played such online gambling and from those who operate these websites; as also a direction to prosecute the unscrupulous owners/proprietors, and the promoters of the online gambling websites, in accordance with law.
A similar petition was moved by Mehrotra in 2019, but the same was disposed of with a direction to the Centre to treat the same as a representation and take a decision in accordance with the law. The Bench has listed the matter for further hearing on October 11.