What next is the question now being asked after the Tamil Nadu government decided to retable and pass the Bill banning online gambling and forward it to Governor RN Ravi for his assent.
The decision was made after the Raj Bhavan returned the TN Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, which the Assembly had passed on 19 October, 2022.
Speaking to South First, high court lawyer R Alagumani said Article 200 of the Indian Constitution says that when a Bill is returned, the Assembly should reconsider it.
If the House passes the Bill again — with or without amendment — and presents it to the Governor for assent, the Governor shall not withhold approval.
“The Governor should give his assent for the Bill, but the question is when,” the advocate noted.
No set time frame for giving assent
“There is no specific time frame for the Governor to give his assent,” Alagumani said.
He further stated that Article 200 also gives an alternative for the Governor for not approving the Bill.
“Provided further that the Governor shall not assent to, but shall reserve for the consideration of the President, any Bill which in the opinion of the Governor would, if it became law…,” the advocate quoted the Article.
It means, the Governor can forward the Bill to the President of India, who would decide on the matter.
Advocate K Puzhalendhi differed. He opined that though Article 200 has not set any time frame for the Governor’s assent, there are several Supreme Court rulings saying that the Governor cannot delay the decision of the government.
Even in the Perarivalan case (Rajiv Gandhi assassination case), the Supreme Court stated that “the Governor is but a shorthand expression for the state government”.
Pointing to Article 201, Puzhalendhi said that “when a Bill is sent to the President, she shall declare either that she assents to the Bill, or that she withholds assent. But nothing can be done if the Bill is denied assent by the President or if she makes no decision”.
It’s all political, says former judge
Retired High Court Justice Hari Paranthaman felt that the Bill was returned due to political reasons.
“It is the same Governor who gave assent to the earlier Bill, The Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021. But it was struck down by the high court and now the Governor is citing the high court rulings in the issue,” the former judge told South First.
“Our Constitution hasn’t set a time frame for high-profile executives like President and Governor to decide on such issues and it has been a political advantage, rather than public reason, to curb the states’ rights,” he added.
Former MLA KT Raja said the President, too, does not have a specific time frame to decide on Bills.
“It happened in the issue of releasing Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts. The Assembly’s resolution was sent to the Governor, then to the President, and then back to Governor. We all know how many years it took in the Perarivalan case and the same might happen in this case too,” he added.
Can TN enforce prohibition?
Even if the Governor approves the Bill, the state government cannot ban online gambling apps without the help of the Union government.
“Only the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology can initiate the process to ban a mobile application. The government will intimate the respective maker or operator, and also the internet service providers,” Vimal Chandru, an app developer, said.
“When a Governor, a representative of the Union government, refuses to approve a Bill, it is doubtful that the Union government would help the state in this matter,” he added.