Kerala High Court reiterates that ban on online rummy unconstitutional

The High Court of Kerala recently (on September 27, 2021) declared the ban on online rummy (by the Kerala Government) to be violative of the fundamental rights enshrined under Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. A bunch of petitions was placed before Justice T.R. Ravi, wherein the petitioners challenged the State Government’s notification dated February 23, 2021, banning “online rummy when played for stakes” under the provisions of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.

While adjudicating this issue, the High Court dealt with various issues ranging from ‘Whether Rummy is a game of mere skill’ to ‘Whether the inclusion of stakes in online rummy would transform the nature of the game’. While addressing the aforementioned issues, reliance was placed by the Kerala High Court on the Supreme Court judgments in the cases of Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr[1] and State of Andhra Pradesh v. K.Satyanarayana[2] wherein the court observed that game of rummy is predominantly a game of mere skill. Moreover, in both the judgments, the court interpreted that the words “game of mere skill” is “mainly and preponderantly a game of skill”.

The counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner (online rummy companies) contended that “Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 is made to grant exemption and not to take away an exemption which is already granted”[3]. As a result, placing ‘online rummy’ within the ambit of the gaming act could be construed as arbitrary and irrational. Furthermore, playing a game of online rummy could be addictive, however, this does not necessarily make it a game of chance to be placed under the ambit of the Gaming Act. It was argued that even lotteries are addictive but the same is promoted by the State itself.

The Respondent, on the other hand, contended that the constitutionality of legislation could not be questioned as the legislature is presumed to know the word of law. As a result, the State is empowered to issue any notification which could be construed as a legislative process and not a mere executive order. Furthermore, it was also argued that the activities which encourage easy money/gain/profit would ultimately cause disruption in the life of a common man resulting in heavy losses. Such activities by any means could never be intended by our constitutional makers to be a subject matter of a fundamental right particularly Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

The Kerala High Court concluded that irrespective of stakes, online rummy would be understood as a game of mere skill (as has been previously held by the Supreme Court). Moreover, the State Government’s notification banning ‘online rummy’ is not in line with reasonable restrictions as enumerated under Article 19(6) of the Constitution[4]. Furthermore, the Court held that the notification is not enforceable in the eyes of law but rather termed as illegal, arbitrary, and violative of the fundamental rights in terms of Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.


[1] (1996) 2 SCC 226

[2] AIR 1968 SC 825

[3] WP(C) NO. 7785 OF 2021

[4] Article 19 (6) of the Constitution of India

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