Online rummy cleared by Supreme Court

Lata Jain

The apex court passed judgment on 18th August allowing rummy club Mahalakshmi Cultural Association to withdraw its Special Leave Petition (SLP) as the members of the club were acquitted by the trial court. A bench of Justices Madan Lokur and SA Bobde noted that there was no allegation by the prosecution that the club members were indulging in the game of rummy. In its order, the Court clearly mentions that the writ petitions before the Madras High Court are withdrawn and therefore observations contained in the order do not survive.

lata jain

Lata Jain

The  order therefore strengthens the proposition that online and offline rummy  for stakes or profit is not illegal (Orders from  Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madras (Madurai bench) High Courts seems to suggest that playing rummy for real money is completely legal. Although, contrary to expectations, the Supreme Court order has not brought conclusive clarity on the legality of playing skill games for stakes, there have not been any negative remarks in the order and therefore online rummy companies should be able to continue operations without roadblocks. (that is how the judgment is being taken care)

The Supreme Court of India in the year 1968 has ruled that rummy is a game of skills. This judgment has been relied and followed in many subsequent judgments. In 1996, the Supreme Court of India had also stated that (i) competition where chances of success depends on significant degree of skill is not considered as ‘gambling’ and (ii) despite the fact that there is an element of chance, rummy is preponderantly a game of skills and, thus, may be considered as a game of ‘mere skill’.

Skill games like rummy are exempt from gambling laws in India and hence whether they are played with money or not, the legality doesn’t change. However, non-skill games are not legal for real money play,” Ankush Gera, CEO, gaming company Junglee Games, which introduced JungleeRummy.com, an online destination for all rummy players

The buy-ins range from Rs.12 with a point value of 0.1 to Rs.2,400 with a point value of 10 on online card gaming portal adda52.com, and if multiple users are to be believed, it’s standard on most platforms.

The websites host rummy games where players, who are 18 years and older, can bet actual money after buying chips through various online payment options. Although Indians are said to be skeptical when it comes to online transactions, the number of active players has only risen in the past few years, says Gera.

“The market size has grown 400 percent. Rummy dominates real money gaming in India and ‘teen patti’ (a popular card came) dominates social free to play,” Gera said.

Gambling in India is heavily restricted. Betting on horse racing and playing the lottery is broadly permitted, but the Public Gambling Act makes it a crime to operate a gaming house. The Act’s rules do not apply to “games of mere skill”, though, and there have been some cases that have gone to court to determine whether certain games qualify as games of skill or whether they constitute games of chance and therefore amount to criminal activities to be involved with.

Supreme Court clears air for online rummy and states that is not gambling but a game of skill.

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