This Thursday, in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister MK Stalin, the Tamil Nadu government decided to again pass a bill to ban online gambling and send it back to Governor R N Ravi for his opinion.
Just a day after the Tamil Nadu Governor, returned the Online Gambling Prohibition and Online Gaming Regulation Bill saying it lacked legislative competence, the government has asserted that it has the power to legislate on the matter.
Law Minister S Regupathy said the Cabinet meeting decided to reintroduce the bill in the Assembly, pass it and again send it to Governor Ravi for his assent.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly will meet on March 20 to present the budget and the duration of the session will be decided later
“Ravi said the state assembly does not have the authority to legislate on the matter. But as per the Madras HC orders, the Tamil Nadu Assembly has jurisdiction and we will pass the bill and send it to them.” It is the duty of the Governor to give his assent when the Bill is again passed in the Assembly, said S Reguphathy.
Regupathy cited State List entries in the Constitution, 33 (Sports, entertainment and pastimes) and 34 (Betting and gambling) and said that following such provisions, the bill was passed by the Assembly on October 19, 2022 and was sent to Governor Ravi for his approval.
The governor cited entry 33 and argued that for the category of ‘games of skill’, the state legislature had no jurisdiction and sent back the bill and it was unacceptable, the minister said.
The government has already clarified that the law prohibits online gambling and has nothing to do with “games of skill”. These games are played physically, which excludes the possibility of irregularities or cheating. However, online card games involving gambling are completely different as they are programmed. They facilitate the automatic manipulation of any card and therefore it is important to ban online gambling. This was very clear. The difference between online and offline games was also highlighted, he said.
Regupathy said that when Ravi sought certain clarifications, they were provided. However, the governor still returned the bill, declaring that the legislature lacked the power to enact a law on the matter.
It is well known that the state legislature has jurisdiction in the matter and Governor Ravi himself gave his assent to an ordinance prohibiting gambling and it was duly promulgated.
The ordinance was promulgated after the HC on August 3, 2021 struck down the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Act, 2021, which banned betting or betting in cyberspace. Such provisions were considered by the High Court as ultra vires the Constitution.
The court struck down the Amendment Act for other deficiencies and not on the premise of the legislature’s competence, he said.
The court said then that there was no bar to the state legislature from drafting a new bill to ban online gambling.
Although the HC has made it clear that the Tamil Nadu Assembly has the power to enact a law to ban online gambling, the governor claims the legislature does not, the minister said.
Several people have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu after losing money playing online card games like Rummy and Poker. It led to a sense of outrage and calls from political parties and people to ban it. Telangana is among the states that have banned online rummy.
The minister said 12 people have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu since the governor refused to sign the bill to ban online rummy. However, he rejected the possibility of moving the matter to fight against the governor’s decision.
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