The matter concerns a first information report (FIR) against a company that operates online Ludo with money at stake. The FIR was filed by a Maharashtra Navanirman Sena politician who apparently saw children play Ludo with money.
The private complaint that was filed was dismissed by the Metropolitan Magistrate, as a result of which the Bombay High Court was approached. The magistrate had rejected the complaint that was initially filed on the basis that Ludo was a game of skill and not of chance.
The issue here is that whether playing Ludo with money is gambling, which is banned. The general idea is that games of chance, whose outcomes are not affected by the skill of a player, is gambling and therefore illegal in most states. The state-wise situation depends on regulation by the state legislature — which is why Goa, for example, has casinos.
This issue of what constitutes a game of skill or chance has come up multiple times in the past. The Supreme Court has, for example, decided that rummy is a game of skill, horse racing is a game of skill, and dismissed some time back petitions against online rummy, which continued to be held as a game of skill.
It is clear that there is nuance and context in which the Bombay High Court has been asked to decide whether or not Ludo is a game of skill when playing with money is, in fact, a decision on whether or not it is illegal or not.
Small legal nuances and minutiae such as this become very crucial. The High Court’s decision to hear such an issue should be understood within its context as well and not as an amusing venture by the court on its off-time.
[It should be noted that the matter itself came into hearing because a senior counsel mentioned the matter and that the senior politician of the MNS filed the complaint.]
Disclaimer: The System Is flawed
All that being said, the legal system in India is far from being perfect. The system is broken in many different ways, and the inability of our legal system to be effective leads to suffering for many. There are no doubts about this and the fact that the system is dysfunctional in many ways.
The domination of coterie of individuals as well as the warped hierarchies built into the bar and the judiciary’s misguided priorities and overreach are all flaws that cannot be tided over. There is an alarming diagnosis for the problems within the system, but the court considering technical matters that may appear inane are not part of that, in my humble opinion.
A misdiagnosis is riskier than no diagnosis — maybe not true in medical terms, but very true here. Or rather, I think there’s context to why such matters come up, and that context is crucial in understanding the legal system and its flaws. Decisions by superior courts on these matters are not the problem, rather, the problem lies within structures and institutions that allow the sort of pendency we see today.
This article was first published on the author’s blog, and has been republished here with permission.