A batch of cases filed before the Madras High Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Ordinance, 2022, was withdrawn on Tuesday after the State government told the court that the Ordinance has not come into force as yet.
Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and Justice D. Krishnakumar dismissed as withdrawn, all the writ petitions filed against the Ordinance, after Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the State told the court that the government was yet to notify the date from which the Ordinance would come into force.
Mr. Sibal said that no cause of action had arisen for Mumbai-based All India Gaming Federation, PlayGames 24X7 Private Limited and Head Digital Works Private Limited to rush to court challenging the validity of an Ordinance which had not come into force at all and urged the court to not entertain the cases.
On the other hand, Senior Counsel C. Aryama Sundaram, Mukul Rohatgi and Satish Parasaran, representing the online gaming companies, contended that the Ordinance had been gazetted and that it could come into force anytime, making the petitioners appear like criminals from the date of implementation.
Mr. Sundaram said the companies had invoked the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution claiming infringement of their rights guaranteed under Article 21 and therefore the technical objection of the Ordinance remaining in suspended animation could not be sustained. He urged the court to adjourn the writ petitions with an interim direction to the government to not take any coercive action against the online gaming companies for a week after notifying the date of implementation of the Ordinance. “Otherwise, they might implement it on a Friday night,” he feared.
Objecting to such a request, Mr. Sibal said, there could not be any preemptive order against the State. Concurring with him, the Acting Chief Justice said that the court could not pass any orders when the Ordinance itself had not come into force at all. He suggested that the companies withdraw the present petitions.
During the course of the hearing, it was also brought to the notice of the court that during the pendency of the Ordinance, the Legislative Assembly too, had passed a Bill on the same issue and that it was now pending with the Governor for his assent. The Ordinance, if implemented from a specific date, could be in force only for six months or until the Bill turns into an Act.