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At Long Last, Some Insight into the Expert Committee that Framed Tamil Nadu’s Online Gambling Law

A counter-affidavit filed by the TN govt in Madras HC shares some insights into the terms of reference the committee had while drafting the law to ban ‘online gambling’ in Tamil Nadu.

Nearly a year after it was first constituted, we finally have some insights into how a government-appointed expert committee approached drafting a law to ban ‘online gambling’ in Tamil Nadu.

Led by retired Madras High Court Justice Chandru, the committee had terms of reference including making “recommendations to rid the menace of such online games,” as per a counter-affidavit filed by the Tamil Nadu government in an ongoing industry-led challenge against the ban before the Madras High Court.

The law, currently in effect in the state, bans online ‘gambling’, in the wake of rising gambling-related suicides. This includes games that don’t typically fall within this ambit, like online rummy and poker.

MediaNama filed multiple RTIs with the Tamil Nadu government last year for information on the committee’s findings, all of which were denied on confidentiality grounds.

The counter-affidavit was shared with MediaNama by multiple sources. We have also reached out to relevant Tamil Nadu officials to clarify its contents.

What was the committee supposed to do? As per the counter-affidavit, the terms of reference comprised:

“Suggest the ways to identify the Online Games [sic] which are of addictive in nature [sic] leading to huge financial loss and disastrous consequences, such as, suicide;

Study whether these Online Games really involve skill or mere tricks;

Collate the empirical data on the ill-effects of Online Gaming which results in suicides, Financial Loss etc;

Examine banning of advertisements relating to Online Gaming;

Examine the feasibility of curtailing the Online Payments that is [sic] being used for playing Online Gaming;

Study the algorithm of Online Games as to whether it can be tweaked to the benefit of the Online Gaming companies;

Make recommendation [sic] on the proposed legislation to rid the menace of such online games;

Make suggestions on any other aspects which would help achieve the above purpose.”

Who else was on the committee? As has been widely reported in the media, other committee members were B. Karthikeyan (Secretary, Legal Affairs, Tamil Nadu), Vinit Wankhede (Additional Director General of Police, State Crime Records Bureau), Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar (Psychiatrist, Founder of SNEHA), and Dr. Shankar Raman M.J. (CEO, IITM Pravartak Technologies Foundation).  Wankhede served as a member and as secretary.

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I'm interested in stories that explore how countries use the law to govern technology—and what this tells us about how they perceive tech and its impacts on society. To chat, for feedback, or to leave a tip: aarathi@medianama.com

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