In a major development for the Indian fantasy sports industry, a review bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, once again upheld the fantasy sports format offered by Dream11 as a game of skill.
The bench summarily dismissed a review petition filed by Varun Gumber who sought the reopening and review of the dismissal order of the Supreme Court that relates to the 2017 Punjab & Haryana High Court judgment ruling fantasy sports to be a game of skill.
In total seven petitions have been dismissed by the Supreme Court. Three of these petitions pertained to the issue of applicability of GST premised on deciding whether fantasy sports amounts to betting and gambling. In one order, the Supreme Court ruled that legality of fantasy sports as a legitimate business and game of skill can't be questioned and only the issue of applicability of GST can be considered by courts.
Further, in July 2021, a bench comprising Justice Nariman and Justice Gavai, while dismissing the petition on legality, held that the issue of fantasy sports being a game of skill and not gambling/betting is no longer res integra i.e. the question of law has been examined conclusively.
This was followed by an order in September 2022 by Justice Gavai and Justice CT Ravi Kumar, which relied on the 2021 order to dismiss another SLP on the matter.
The review petition by Varun Gumber claimed that there was an error apparent in the judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Upon careful review, the petition was dismissed on merits as well as on account of delay with the bench noting that there is no error apparent on the face of the judgments. Accordingly, the order reads that the matter does not warrant any reconsideration.
Commenting on the development, Senior Advocate Gopal Jain said, "It is important to note that the Supreme Court of India has dismissed this review petition on merits and categorically observed that there was no error apparent in the judgment of the Hon'ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana. A total of 9 Supreme Court judges have now evaluated the legality of the fantasy sports format offered by Dream11 in the country and have consistently held that it is a game of skill and a legitimate business activity protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. It is also to be noted that the issue pertaining to treating fantasy sports as not amounting to betting in the context of levy of tax is also settled and the only open question before the court is on the applicability of GST to Fantasy Sports as a legitimate business activity. Hence any attempt to treat Fantasy Sports as 'betting' in the eyes of law is no longer in debate since it has been adjudicated both on facts and law and has attained finality."
Joy Bhattacharjya, Director General, FIFS added "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has once again reaffirmed that formats of fantasy sports that are in line with the FIFS charter are games of skill and not akin to betting or gambling. We continue to repose our faith in the judiciary and will keep working towards promoting responsible gaming in the country."