Calcutta HC says playing poker is legal
In what can only be described as an extremely positive piece of news for the sport of poker in the country, the Calcutta High Court has declared, once again, that poker is a game of skill.The Jalpaiguri circuit bench of the Calcutta High Court issued this ruling at the end of August in the matter of India Poker Association (IPA) versus the State of West Bengal case.
The circuit court mentioned, that as per the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, 1957, poker does not fall under the ambit of gambling and as such local law enforcement cannot disrupt or interfere in any poker games which are conducted by the club in question.
This matter initially arose when the IPA, which was conducting poker games at a Siliguri hotel, got raided by the police and members were harassed as a result. The IPA then filed a case in the Calcutta High Court seeking a judgement which was then released on 29 August 2019 by the Jalpaiguri circuit bench. This single judge bench was presided over by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, “Since the game of poker ipso facto is not included within the purview of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957, without there being a specific complaint with regard to the petitioners resorting to gambling or other illegal activity in the name of poker, there cannot be any occasion for the police to interfere with such game."
He went on to add, “Accordingly, W.P.A. No. 394 of 2019 is disposed of by directing the respondents not to interfere with the games of poker going on between the members of the petitioner no. 1 at the rented room at the Hotel Tourist Inn at Sevoke Road in Siliguri, unless there is a specific complaint against the petitioners that they are resorting to gambling or undertaking any unlawful activity in the garb of the game of poker in the said room.”
This is not the first time the Indian Poker Association has been in the midst getting a ruling in favour of poker as being a sport that does not come under the purview of gambling. Back in 2015, the IPA which is led by Bangalore-based legal eagle KN Suresh (pictured below), had received a positive order from the Calcutta High Court directing various authorities like the police, municipal, state and others not to interfere in the poker games conducted by the petitioner, Suresh and his club IPA. This order was considered a major victory by poker enthusiasts across the country and of course in Kolkata as well. The positive ruling then led to a number of poker rooms opening up in the City of Joy. This latest order once again prohibits any harassment by the police warned them that while they should any complaint which comes up, "... but that would not give the police an unlimited license to enter into the room-in-question and go on a rampage in the garb of investigation, without a specific arrest warrant or a permission from the appropriate authorities."
While this is undoubtedly great news for poker lovers across the country, it also solidifies further evidence in favour of poker being treated as a game of skill rather than chance. Such positive rulings will eventually only lead to betterment of the game and the overall growth of the sport in the country.
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