MEITY is the New Nodal Ministry for Online Gaming in India29 Dec 2022
Union Govt has Amended the Allocation of Business Rules
The Union Government has notified amendments to the Allocation of Business Rules that make the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) the nodal ministry for online gaming in India but place e-Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Amendment series no. 370 dated December 23, 2022, to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, lists “Matters related to online gaming” as a business of MEITY and allots “e-Sports as part of multi-sports events” to the Sports Department of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Reportedly, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) will “continue” as required with its oversight on advertising and general conduct by online gaming companies and the observation of the digital media code of ethics.
The IT Ministry will put its efforts into “drafting a legislative framework to regulate online gaming.” As we reported earlier, the upcoming regulations “may not make any distinction between games of ‘skill’ and games of ‘chance’” but will preserve the power of States to take a legal stance on online gambling and games of chance.
Gaming and tech lawyer Jay Sayta comments that the amendment would “pave the way for the IT ministry to immediately issue some broad guidelines or rules to govern the online gaming sector without necessarily divesting the states of the power to legislate.”
“Earlier, since the nodal ministry was not defined, nobody was ready to take the responsibility [for online gaming]. That has now been clarified with the amendments,” Sayta adds.
According to the tech lawyer, the eventual adoption of a law on online gaming by Parliament would be a “long-drawn” process.
“Whether the centre would want to enact legislation on this issue now, when the question of whether this falls under the union or state list is pending before the Supreme Court, remains to be seen,” he says.
The amendment to the Allocation of Business Rules follows the recommendations given by the Inter-Ministerial Task Force (IMTF) charged with preparing a proposal for a regulatory framework for online gaming.
The same changes have also been recommended by the cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba-led committee of secretaries at a meeting held at the end of October.
As per the final recommendations by the IMTF, enacting of a special law to regulate online gaming would be a long-term measure, and an interim measure to regulate the industry would be to adopt rules under Sections 79 and 69 of the IT Act.
The difficulty here arises from the unclear status of gaming companies as publishers or intermediaries, as they act as the former category when they develop or publish a game but as the latter when two or more players play the game on a platform. The IMTF report expects this issue to be cleared by the upcoming Digital India Act.