Raj HC | Online fantasy game -“Dream 11” does not involve offences of betting and gambling; Court dismisses PIL

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Indrajit Mahanty CJ, and Ashok Kumar Gaur J., dismissed a Public Interest Litigation alleging the online game “Dream 11” of committing offence of betting and gambling.

In the present case, the petitioner filed a PIL with a grievance that the online game “Dream 11” should be declared involving betting and gambling. The petitioner prayed in his petition that the Court may pass suitable order/s to prohibit the stated game and also measures needs to be undertaken in order to prohibit the commission of offences of gambling.

The Additional Advocate General representing the respondents, Rajesh Maharshi, filed a reply to the above petition contending that the issues in hand has been discussed by various High Courts and the legality of the game has been upheld. The respondents submitted that as per Section 12 of the Rajasthan Public Gambling Ordinance, 1949, the game involving “mere skill” is exempted from the applicability of the Act/Ordinance and since “Dream 11” game has been held to be a game of skill and not a game of chance.

The advocate representing the petitioner, Mr Sunil Kumar Singh, submitted that the State authorities have miserably failed to discharge their statutory obligation of preventing such game which is played by the innocent people and they indulge themselves in gambling and betting.

The Court upon analysing the facts and circumstances declared that the online game did not involve elements of gambling or betting and the State authorities have not violated any statutory obligations.

The Court placed reliance on the directions of the Punjab and High Court decision, Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh 2017 Cri.L.J. 3827 wherein it was decided: “The respondent company’s website and success in Dream 11’s fantasy sports basically arises out of users exercise, superior knowledge, judgment and attention…. Equally so, before I conclude, I must express that gambling is not a trade and thus, is not protected by Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India and thus, the fantasy games of the respondent-company cannot said to be falling within the gambling activities as the same involves the substantial skills which is nothing but is a business activity” The Court also relied on the Division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India Criminal Public Interest Litigation Stamp No. 22 of 2019 which upheld the legality of the game and upon challenge to the Supreme Court, the Apex Court had dismissed the challenge. The Bombay High Court had stated: “Only if the result of the game/contest is determined merely by chance or accident, any money put on stake with consciousness of risk and hope to gain, would be ‘gambling’ or ‘betting’. There is no merit in the submission that the result of their fantasy game/contest shall be considered as merely by chance or accident notwithstanding involvement of substantial skill.”

The Division Bench also held that the game did not involve any form of gambling since the result of the fantasy game also did not depend on winning or losing any particular team in the real world on any given day. The present Court dismissed the PIL being unable to find any merit in the prayers of the petitioner.[Chandresh Sankhla v. State Of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 264, decided on 14-02-2020]

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