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Tamil Nadu Government Convenes Committee For Emergency Law Against Online Gambling

The Tamil Nadu government has announced a committee that will make recommendations towards an ordinance on online gambling after multiple suicide cases

 

The Committee will submit its report in two weeks, after which an ordinance will be immediately promulgated.

On June 10th, 2022, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.K. Stalin announced the formation of a committee to draft recommendations against online gambling games like rummy in the State. This move comes after the death of Bhavani on June 6th—the 29-year-old woman from Chennai allegedly died by suicide after losing ₹3 lakh and 20 sovereigns of gold while playing online rummy. Bhavani’s demise is one among many online gambling-related suicides in the State. 

Who Shapes this Emergency Law?

The committee is expected to file its report in two weeks—after which, an ordinance will be immediately promulgated based on its findings. It will be led by retired Judge of the Madras High Court, Justice K. Chandru—who notably advanced justice for historically oppressed communities across his career. Other committee members include

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  • Dr. S. Sankararaman (technical expert, from IIT Madras); 
  • Lakshmi Vijaykumar (psychiatrist and founder of suicide prevention NGO SNEHA); 
  • Vinit Dev Wankhede (Additional Director General of Police, State Crime Records Bureau, Chennai). 

Is Political Pressure Accelerating the Chief Minister’s Decision?

As the Committee drafts its report, the Chief Minister faces rising pressure from members of the opposition in the State to address online gambling—an issue that cuts across party lines: 

  • In response to Bhavani’s death, Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss, leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), criticised the government for its inaction, further alleging that over 22 people had died by suicide due to online gambling over the last 10 months.
  • O. Panneerselvam, former Chief Minister and Coordinator for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), has consistently urged the Chief Minister Stalin to take action on the issue. 
  • Much earlier in the year, while speaking in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on January 6th, CM Stalin himself reiterated that the government would curb online gambling soon. Mr. Stalin leads the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). 

How Has Tamil Nadu Dealt with Online Gambling in the Past?

In February 2021, the AIADMK government led by former Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy introduced the Tamil Nadu Gaming & Police Laws (Amendment) Act. Part II of the Act sought to ban all forms of online gambling. Multiple writ petitions were filed at the Madras High Court challenging the legislation. 

  • On August 3, 2021, in Junglee Games India Private Limited v State of Tamil Nadu, the High Court struck down Part II of the Act, declaring it unconstitutional. It found the Act to be in violation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India, 1950, which protects an individual’s right to practice a profession or carry out a business. 
  • The DMK government, led by Chief Minister Stalin, came to power in May 2021. In December 2021, it challenged the Madras High Court’s Judgment before the Supreme Court, requesting the reinstatement of the ban.
  • Although the matter remains pending before the Supreme Court, the challenge raised a key point—that the High Court was wrong to suggest that the Tamil Nadu government was legislatively incompetent to draft such a Bill. 

Who Has the Power to Regulate Online Gambling in India’s Federal System?

There exists much ambiguity over what constitutes online gambling, as well as which level of government is authorised to regulate it. Laws similar to the Tamil Nadu government’s 2021 Act were introduced in Karnataka and Kerala—and were subsequently struck down by their respective High Courts over the past year. The Judgements refer to the conflation of real-money online gaming and online gambling, ruling that States do not have the jurisdiction to regulate the skill-based former category.  

  • Recently, in a similar vein, the Union clarified in the Rajya Sabha that it does not plan to include online gaming under the category of gambling. 
  • Despite this, the present uncertainty over the basic definition of ‘online gambling’, and the kinds of games it encompasses, may stunt the future of a fast-growing sector in India. 
  • In response to uneven regulatory mechanisms, online gaming stakeholders recently met with Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, to discuss their demands for a centralised regulatory framework. A few weeks ago, the Union set up a committee to recommend a uniform regulatory mechanism for online gaming.
  • Now, at the national level, parliamentarians are repeatedly calling for the regulation of online gambling—this April even saw the introduction of a Private Member’s Bill to, among other things, regulate online games at the Union level. 

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