The Kerala High Court on Thursday issued notice to Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, actors Tamanna Bhatia and Aju Varghese, and the State Government on a plea seeking to ban online gambling.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Anil K Narendran issued notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by film director Pauly Vadakkan’.

“Play Games 24*7 Private Ltd” and “Mobile Premier League(MPL)” – two companies running online betting portals- are also made respondents in the petition. Virat Kohli, Tamanna Bhatia and AjuVerghese are brand ambassadors of online rummy portals. The bench has asked the Kerala Government to respond to the plea within ten days.

The petition filed through Advocate Jomy K Josestated that online gambling is now a growing menace in the state and the primary targets will be middle to low income group people who will be enticed to make easy money.

Further it added that, “These platforms that are even endorsed by celebrities attract their audience with false promise, easily making a fool of unsuspecting people. Primary targets will be middle to low income people who are enticed to make easy money. People fall prey to these fraud platforms only to loose what is left of their life’s savings. There have been reports of such scams from across the state”.

The petition also highlights the recent suicide of a Kerala youth after he lost money in online betting.

It is pointed out that the High Courts of Madras and Gujarat have passed directions against online gambling, and states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Odisha have brought laws against it.

There is need for regulating online gambling and most of the states are moving towards it by either bringing new legislation or amending the old gaming legislations. In this connection, the petitioner contends that the Kerala Gaming Act 1960- which regulates gambling activities- is inadequate to deal with the challenges posed by online gambling as it does not have provisions covering activities done virtually via electronic devices.

The petition seeks a declaration that online gambling and online betting or more particularly “online rummy”, are unlawful and illegal. The petition also seeks to direct the State Government to take appropriate steps to ban all forms of online gambling and betting.

In November 2020, the Madras High Court had asked the Tamil Nadu Government to bring a law to curb online betting. Following that, the Tamil Nadu government brought an Ordinance recently. The Gujarat High Court has also passed a similar direction.

Also, the Delhi High Court has directed the Union of India & Delhi Government to treat a petition filed against online gambling, as a representation and decide the grievances ventilated in the petition, as narrated in detail in the writ petition.