he move was first initiated by Jay Sayta, a student at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, who uncovered the Maharashtra Casinos (Control & Tax) Act, passed by the legislative assembly in 1976. It superseded provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act 1887 that outlawed gambling in the state except lotteries and horse racing.
Almost four decades have passed since a recently unearthed bill was introduced that legalizes casinos in the state and the court wants the government to clarify its position after a Public Interest Litigation was filed.
A passage in the Act specifies that “it shall come into force such date as the State government may by notification in the Official Gazette appoint.” However, no such notification was ever passed and the legislation remained buried in archives for 38 years without being enacted. The High Court has now set a four-week limit for a final decision.
The student, also a practicing lawyer, filed a Public Interest Litigation petition that seeks the state government be directed to take a time-bound decision for implementation of the Act. Mihir Desai, the senior advocate representing the student, told the court that extensive research had been done and the legislation would help to stamp out underground gambling.
“We direct the state government to decide within reasonable time on the issue of implementation of Maharashtra Casinos (Casino and Tax) Act 1976,” said the High Court in a statement, “particularly since the legislation was enacted almost 40 years ago.”
Only the states of Goa and Sikkim have enacted legislation that permits certain casinos and overrides the 1887 law that was created during British rule. Despite the short time period to assess the regulation, if the Maharashtra state government decides to pass the legislation, it could pave the way for the heavily-populated state of Mumbai to open new casinos.