30 Apr 2016

Implications of the 'poker for stakes' Delhi HC order [with order copy]

Delhi High Court

Exclusive On 21st April, Justice Indermeet Kaur of the Delhi High Court, allowed the parties to withdraw the civil revision petition filed in Gaussian Networks Pvt. Ltd. v. Monica Lakhanpal & Another, at the request of Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The order, now available in the public domain can be accessed here. In the order, Justice Kaur notes that the petitioners do not wish to get any academic questions answered from the court and therefore have decided to withdraw the petition:

Learned senior counsel for the petitioner submits that the judgement is in the teeth of law laid down by the Apex Court in the judgment reported as (1996) 2 SCC 226 Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan Vs. State of Tamil Nadu and another as also another judgment of the Apex Court reported as (1968) 2 SCR 387 State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. K. Satyanarayana and Others. Submission being that where a competitive skill is involved along with a substantial degree of exercise of skill, it cannot be termed as a ‘gambling activity’.

A copy of an RTI information has also been placed on record, obtained from the Government of Nagaland, Department of Justice and Law wherein the answer to the query was that the games of poker, rummy and bridge involve skill and are not gambling as per the provisions of the Gambling Act, 1867. Submission again being reiterated that the impugned order has proceeded on a mis-appreciation of law.

Be that as it may, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned senior counsel for the petitioner submits that he does not wish any academic question to be answered and at this stage prays that permission may be granted to the parties to withdraw their reference which they had made before the Trial Judge.

Permission is accordingly granted to the petitioner to withdraw this revision petition i.e. C.R.P. No.119/2012 titled as “Gaussian Network Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Monica Lakhanpal & Anr”. Accordingly, the observations made by the Trial Judge in its order dated 17.09.2012 i.e. in Suit No. 32/2012 titled as “Gaussian Network Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Monica Lakhanpal & Anr” no longer survive.

Implications of the order

As explained by Dr. Singhvi, the eagerly anticipated matter in the Delhi High Court was withdrawn to avoid a ‘hit wicket’ and prevent a negative stigma being attached to the game of poker, even though the matter was just an opinion sought from the court and arising out of a contractual arrangement.

The fact that no adverse comments or observations were made will provide relief for the gaming industry. Further, recording of the RTI query in the order, that was answered affirmatively by the Nagaland government as well as favourable observations in the recent past by the High Courts of Karnataka and Calcutta indicates that poker is not being viewed in a negative light.

The recent law passed by the Nagaland legislature to regulate online skill games like poker shows that only three paths are available to state governments- (i) regulate and license games of skill; (ii) restrict the activity and (iii) permit the activities to continue unhindered (status quo). However, the gaming industry is unlikely to get any conclusive and binding clarity on the legality of online skill games, at least in the next couple of years.

Note: A copy of the Delhi High Court order dated 21st April 2016 can be accessed here.

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