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Put online gaming policy on hold: Law commission to MeitY officials

Ministry unlikely to shelve draft rules, asks commission to submit inputs

online gaming | IT ministry | Law Commission

Sourabh Lele  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

The has urged top information and technology (IT) ministry officials to put on hold the policy on till it comes up with a “comprehensive” report on the matter.

The ministry, however, is unlikely to shelve the draft rules and has invited the commission to submit their inputs, sources said.

The commission, chaired by Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, the former chief justice of Karnataka High Court, has taken suo motu cognizance of the financial losses, addiction among youngsters, and fraudulent malpractices in . The panel is deliberating on the legal aspects concerning online games.

“We have decided to conduct an in-depth study and analysis of the draft rules, as to bring out a comprehensive report on the matter. Consequently, we urge you to kindly put on hold any proposal to finalise any draft laws in this regard while we are seized of the matter. You are also requested to hold a meeting and have a consultation with us regarding the same,” the chairman said in a letter to senior officials at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

The commission also noted that the finance ministry was working to finalise new laws or introduce amendments in the existing ones related to the sector.

The 22nd Law Commission, set up in November 2022, researches and reviews laws and advises on new legislation. It works as an advisory body to the law and justice ministry.

The earlier this month released draft amendments to the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in relation to . It has conducted rounds of consultations with gaming companies, industry bodies, gamers, teachers, and policy advocacy groups.

When asked about the proposal from the Law Commission, an official from MeitY said, “Any stakeholder can give their feedback on the policy as consultations are already open. There is no question of stopping the process, but suggestions are welcome.”

The rules define an online game as any game that is offered on the Internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource if he or she deposits with the expectation of earning winnings. The draft rules propose a self-regulatory body to certify what is permitted as an ‘online game’ in India. They also prescribe a registration mark on all online games registered by SRO (self-regulatory body).

The commission believes that different laws being brought by several states might complicate the matter. “Various states, such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya, etc. have come up with their own laws and ordinances to deal with the issue… The position of the law is unclear; as a result, it is leading to a lot of chaos and confusion. With many more state governments planning to come up with such laws, it is bound to further complicate the conundrum,” the letter adds.

In 2018, the 21st submitted a report titled “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting Including Cricket in India”, recommending the regulation of gambling and betting. The commission noted that while it is desirable to ban betting and gambling, it is difficult to prevent these activities altogether.

The report recommended that gambling and betting should only be permitted by licensed operators from India. For participants, it recommended that there should be a cap on the number of such transactions for a specific time period.

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First Published: Mon, January 23 2023. 19:52 IST