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Legislative setup to deal with emerging online games/virtual games is need of the hour: Madras HC

D.Siluvai Venance v. State of Tamil Nadu Crl.OP.(MD)No.6568 of 2020 and Crl.MP.(MD)No.3340 of 2020

The petitioner, a Secondary Grade Teacher working in a Government Higher Secondary School, has been slapped with a First Information Report in Crime No.175 of 2020, on the file of the Koodankulam Police Station, Tirunelveli District. The petitioner, who is arrayed as fifth accused in the aforesaid crime number, filed this petition to quash the proceedings pending against him.

Mr.L.P.Maurya, learned Counsel for the petitioner would contend that the place mentioned in the First Information Report is neither a common area, as per Section 3 of the Act, nor it can be termed as a public street,place, as contemplated under Section 12 of the Act, however, the respondent Police has registered the case as against this petitioner and others.

The learned Counsel for the petitioner would further submit that in order to attract the offence under Section 12 of the Act, the alleged offence ought to have been committed in a public place. But, admittedly, even according to the respondent Police, it was near a thorny bush, the petitioner and others played the cards. The premises, in which the search and seizure was made, is a farm land of the petitioner’s friend in Vijayapathi Panchayat and the same cannot be brought within the purview of Section 12 of the Act. Moreover, the petitioner is only a mute spectator, accompanied his friends at the time of occurrence and he has also been unnecessarily arrested and roped-in as an accused.

Mr.K.K.Ramakrishnan, learned Additional Public Prosecutor submits that the accused persons were playing cards with stakes and there is a legal presumption under Section 6 of the Act that the persons found gaming with cards in any place are presumed to be playing in a common gaming house. Moreover, the case is only at the stage of FIR and the petitioner and others were arrested by

the respondent Police along with cards and money. Therefore, it is not proper to interfere with the investigation at this stage and prays for dismissal.

“If a group of persons (Say 10) want to play a game, each one of them have to bet a sum of Rs.10/- (Say). At the end of the game, the Winner will get his amount as well as 100% of his bet amount, being the prize money. The Runner will get his amount as well as 70% of his bet amount, being the prize money. The losers will not only loose the game, but also loose Rs.10/- that was put in by them. A rough calculation for the aforesaid scenario will give a whooping sum of Rs.63/- to the online gaming site, while awarding Rs.20/- to the Winner and Rs.17/- to the Runner. Naturally, a player, if he looses his amount, will try to meet out his loss by playing again and again.”

To be noted, if these set of unemployed youth, who are also under frustration, if get trapped into these elements, may go to any level to meet their loss. The most dangerous thing for any Society is educated criminals. If a knowledgeable person turns out to be a criminal, it would be a havoc on the society. Nowadays, we are also witnessing Graduates involving in chain snatches and other decoity cases.

When the menace of lottery was at its peak, sucking the blood and life of several families, the Government of Tamil Nadu, in the year 2003, has taken a rigid stand, with an iron hand and banned the sale of all lotteries, including online, within the territory of the State, by passing the Government Order in G.O.Ms.No.20 Home (Courts II) Department dated 08.01.2003. This Government Order, though challenged before the Courts of law, still holds the field. By virtue of this order, the Government has thus prevented the suicidal deaths, who have not only lost their hard earned money but also their family peace and reputation, in the State. Similarly, when the menace of charging exorbitant interest, by way of ‘daily vatti’, ‘hourly vatti’, ‘kandhu vatti’, ‘meter vatti’, ‘vattiku vatti’, was in its prime, the Government of Tamil Nadu, in the year 2003, has enacted Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act, 2003, thereby, wiped the tears of the affected people at large.

 Therefore, this Court hopes and trusts that this Government shall take note of the present alarming Situation and pass suitable legislation, thereby, regulating and controlling such online gaming through license, of course, keeping in mind the law of the land as well as the judicial precedents in this regard. This Court is not against the virtual games, but the anguish of this Court is that there should be a regulatory body to monitor and regulate the legal gaming activities, be it in the real world or the virtual world. Needless to say, that if the Government intends to pass a legislation in this regard, all the stakeholders should be put in notice and their views should be ascertained.

Since this Court is exercising power under Section 482 Cr.P.C., with the above suggestions, this Court refrains from observing any further, leaving it to the Government. In the result, this Criminal Original Petition is allowed and the proceedings pending against the petitioner / fifth accused in Crime No.175 of 2020 on the file of the Koodankulam Police Station, Tirunelveli, is quashed. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petition is closed.

~Karthik K.P

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