The police of Rajkot city in Gujarat has arrested and jailed seven people for playing PUBG, a mobile game which has been banned in several areas in Gujarat, including Rajkot, for being harmful to children. Those arrested, however, were not children but adults aged between 19-26 years.

An unlawful assembly order for a mobile game: MediaNama had reported on Monday that PUBG was banned in at least three districts and two cities in Gujarat. The game was first blocked in Rajkot on March 6, via an order by the Rajkot Police Commissioner. It emerges that the ban notification included a prohibitory Section 144 order under the CrPC which prohibits assembly of more than four people in an area (h/t – Internet Freedom Foundation /reddit). (See a copy of the notification appended at the bottom, translated from the original by Manan Bhatt)

Therefore, I Manoj Agrawal, IPS, Police Commissioner, Rajkot City considering public safety and security and to maintain law and order, exercises power conferred to me under S. 144 of the CRPC and S. 37(3) of the Gujarat Police Act, orders prohibition on playing PUBG GAME/ MOMO CHALLENGE across the territory of Rajkot City Area.
Notification by Rajkot Police Commissioner on March 6, 2019

This is excessive as the order is usually passed in tense situations or when there is potential for public disorder. Moreover, the notification authorizes a any officer ranking between police sub-inspector and joint police commissioner to file a complaint against violators, who shall be subject to penalty under Section 188 of the IPC and Section 135 of the Gujarat Police Act. The notification – which will remain in effect till April 30th – called on the public to inform anybody playing PUBG to the nearest police station.

Up till now, the PUBG ban in Gujarat is in effect in:

  • Rajkot City
  • Surat, unclear whether city or district
  • Bhavnagar district
  • Gir Somnath district
  • Panchmahal district
  • Banned in all Gujarat state schools

Administration across jurisdictions in Gujarat cited reasons such as the game being addictive, harmful to children’s education, and inciting violence in children.

PUBG or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was created by Chinese company Tencent Games and launched in March 2018 on smartphones. A Quartz study from December 2018 found that PUBG was the top-grossing game on Google Play Store, and about 72% of PUBG gamers were making in-app purchases of up to Rs 350. The game has seen over 200 million downloads, and has 30 million daily active users globally.

Bombay HC petition seeking PUBG ban in all Maharashtra schools

Additionally, a 11-year-old boy from Maharashtra has petitioned the Bombay HC to ban the game in all Maharashtra state schools. His petition reasons that the game promoted violence, murder, aggression, looting, leading to game addiction and cyber bullying.

  • The PIL points out that India does not have an online ethics review committee to check such volatile and violent content. It states that PUBG was banned in China by such a committee for inducing violence.
  • It cited a WHO report about gaming disorders and their adverse impact on children
  • It sought direction from the Maharashtra State Education Department to ban PUBG in all schools.
  • It also sought direction to MeitY and the Union government to form an Online Ethics Review Committee to monitor such content.