Indian Online Rummy And Online Poker Websites In Legal Tangles

Online games like online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are increasingly becoming popular in India. However, the regulatory environment for these online games is still in a state of mess. So bad is the position that even the traditional and offline rummy and poker games are still considered gambling by many States in India. Police and other authorities are still trying to ascertain how to manage offline rummy and poker games in various States. As far as online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are concerned, law enforcement agencies of India are clueless as to their legality or illegality. In short, online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are in a state of limbo and uncertainty.

To clear this legal uncertainty, many online games providers approached the Supreme Court while it was dealing one of the cases pertaining to offline rummy. Obviously, that was a premature attempt on the part of these online games providers as not only the matter pertained to a particular party but also the matter relates to offline rummy in a particular State. However, online games providers were hoping that the Supreme Court would clear the mist of uncertainty in this regard. This was a mistaken notion as decision of the Supreme Court on the facts and circumstances of a particular case cannot be decisive for online games providers in India. Even otherwise, they have no locus standi to approach the Supreme Court in the present circumstances.

The Supreme Court realising this situation asked the Central Government to clarify it stand on the legality of online games in India. However, Central Government was not keen enough to do this exercise and it gave no opinion to the Supreme Court on this regard. Faced with the techno legal issues involved in adjudication of the legality or illegality of online card games, the Supreme Court of India held that it would not decide the legality or illegality of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc. However, a decision about offline rummy is expected from the Supreme Court next week but that would have no bearing upon the legality or illegality of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc.

Now the providers of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc must satisfy the twin requirements of Indian laws. Firstly, they have to prove that online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are games of skills and not chance. This they cannot prove till there is an authoritative pronouncement from the Supreme Court in this regard. Till that time they would be vulnerable to various forms of legal actions and sanctions as their acts maybe considered to be acts of gambling by various law enforcement agencies of India. Any authoritative pronouncement form the Supreme Court regarding legality or illegality of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc is ruled out for another decade in the present circumstances and till that time these online games providers would be in a legally vulnerable position.

Secondly, even if online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are presumed to be games of skills, still they are required to comply with techno legal requirements. There are hardly one or two online card games providers that are complying with these techno legal requirements. Most of the providers of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are openly flouting the laws of India especially the techno legal obligations and cyber law due diligence (PDF) requirements. Now as the Supreme Court has refused to decide about the legality or illegality of running websites of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc, it is imperative that they comply with various techno legal laws of India in this regard. The argument of games of skills is not relevant when it comes to compliance with laws of India.

Online card games stakeholders must not be misguided by the misleading and incorrect media reports about the order of the Supreme Court. Nowhere the Supreme Court has held that of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are legal in India. On the contrary, Supreme Court has categorically held that it is not going to decide about the legality or illegality of these websites of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc. In short, the websites of online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc are operating at their own risks and so are the players who play at these websites.

The only hope of websites running online poker, online rummy, online card games, etc is that the Central Government formulates techno legal framework that can accommodate online games and other Internet related aspects. That is a long and time consuming process and it cannot be expected for a long period of time. Thus, all online games provider must immediately draft their terms and conditions and other legal documents in conformity with the laws of India, especially the Information Technology Act, 2000. Those who have already put at place basic terms and conditions must revisit them and make them in compliance with the present legal requirements.

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