On online betting law, lawyer Singhvi gets help from MP Singhvi

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Raising potential questions of propriety and conflict of interest, Congressman Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked Rajya Sabha a question on a topic he was involved in as a lawyer: government betting policy and online games.

He denies any conflict, but records show that on November 11 Singhvi, a senior lawyer, appeared before the Karnataka High Court for an applicant company that challenged the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Police Act 2021 (amendment ) which prohibits all online gambling and betting. .

Singhvi argued that there is a distinction between a game of chance and a game of skill, and although the former may be regulated by authorities, governments have no jurisdiction to ban games of skill.

Singhvi appeared for Gameskraft Technologies Pvt Ltd in the All India Gaming Federation v Karnataka State case before the Karnataka High Court. Gameskraft Technologies Pvt Ltd is the parent company of RummyCulture, an online gaming application.

Today, a month later, Singhvi, as a member of the Rajya Sabha, asked a question – the star-spangled question requiring an oral answer is inscribed against his name for December 16 in the Upper House – in which he wishes that the Ministry of Information and Dissemination to indicate: A. Details of the notice issued by the Ministry on advertising on fantastic sports; B. The reasons why there is no distinction between games of skill and games of chance; C. The political position of the ministry on these categories.

Experts say this raises questions of ownership.

PDT Achary, former general secretary of Lok Sabha, said: “What Singhvi is doing may not fall within the definition of ‘conflict of interest’, but it is certainly inappropriate.

“There are no rules for admitting questions or asking supplementary questions in the House on the basis of a conflict of interest. Of course, it is a question of impropriety if the member has a direct and pecuniary interest in the question relating to questions in Parliament, ”he said.

Rajya Sabha rules of conduct and etiquette state: “Members should always ensure that their private financial interests and those of their immediate family members do not conflict with the public interest and if such conflict arises, they should try to resolve such conflict in a way that does not compromise the public interest.

Denying any conflict of interest, Singhvi told The Indian Express, “I have never appeared for a company dealing with fantasy sports in general, with the exception of online rummy operators. I appeared on the legal point of games of skill versus games of chance and only for online rummy operators.

“Secondly, the first time I appeared for the same thing was over eight years ago before the Supreme Court, subsequently on different occasions in different High Courts like Andhra, Telangana, Madras and Karnataka. Third, all of these appearances were for one or two companies on the issue of online rummy alone. Fourth, as a senior lawyer, I am hired by different lawyers and each time I do not deal with the client and do not know the clients. Fifth, question (A) relates to advertising, (B) is a very valid question on the law established for over 70 years, first established by the Supreme Court of India at Chamarbaugwala in the 1950s, making a distinction between games of skill and games of chance and question C is only correlative. Therefore, there is nothing improper, ”he said.

He said his question was to clarify the concept. “The question is posed only as a conceptual question on skill games and I have no interest whatsoever in any operator. Even the slightest idea of ​​a conflict of interest never occurred to me, ”he said.

The Karnataka High Court hearing to challenge the ban law presents high stakes for the online gambling industry, fueled by the pandemic. According to a report by KPMG in June of this year, the size of casual online gaming in India stood at Rs 6,000 crore in fiscal year 2021.

In August, the Madras High Court struck down a similar law that banned online gambling, including games of skill. States cannot legislate on a “game of skill” as opposed to “gambling” according to a 1957 Supreme Court ruling. Games that rely more on chance are classified as gambling. money, which may be prohibited by law.

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