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Chautala’s casino project is dead
President rejects Haryana Gambling Bill
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 15
Mr Om Prakash Chautala's favourite project to set up a chain of casinos in Haryana is finally dead.

This is the outcome of the refusal by the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, to give his assent to the controversial Public Gambling(Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2002, which was the basis for Chautala's Bill on casinos.

The Union Government has written to the Haryana Gove that "the assent of the President could not be obtained to the Bill because foreign investment and foreign technology collaboration, in any form, are completely prohibited in the lottery business, gambling and betting sector. Further, lottery business is not open to foreign investment..."

According to well informed sources here the Centre has also written that the amendment by the Chautala Government would have caused unhealthy influence on society. The proposed amendment would defeat the very purpose of the principal Act, the Public Gambling Act, 1867. "The national policy is also to discourage gambling in all forms," the Centre has pointed out

The President, the sources say, concurred with the then Haryana Governor, Babu Parmanand, that casinos might encourage organised crime.

However, a reply from the MHA on the Casino Bill is still awaited.

The Chautala Government wanted to set up casinos in the state in the face of much opposition from political parties as well as social organisations. A special session of the Vidhan Sabha was convened in October, 2002, to pass the two Bills in a great hurry. No debate was allowed and the Bills were passed by a voice vote, much to the delight of the Chautala Government.

Babu Parmanand, endeared himself to the opponents of the Bills when he reserved them for consideration after sitting over them for about three months.

The sources say the then Haryana Government brought intense pressure on Babu Parmanand and his Secretary, Mr Vijai Vardhan, during those three months to obtain the Governor's assent to the two Bills. However, the legally and morally correct advice of Mr Vardhan prevailed and Babu Parmanand, otherwise a mild man, withstood the pressure

In his five-page strongly-worded note, Babu Parmanand wrote that the two Bills "attract the doctrine of 'occupied field' as they occupy the same field as the Public Gambling Act, 1867, and relate to the pith and substance of the subject matter of the 1867 Act and are repugnant to its spirit as they seek to ligitimise gambling activities in casinos whereas the 1867 Act represses public gambling. Therefore, one cannot be obeyed without disobeying the other."

Babu Parmanand also said that the two Bills would have ramifications beyond Haryana, affecting the socio-political fabric of the entire nation as Haryana's proximity to the national capital "raises among other issues, the spectre of security concerns, if licensed casinos were allowed to operate on the doorsteps of Delhi. Previous experience of running casinos in different parts of the western world tells us that organised crime in its myriad forms such as drug running, flesh trade, extortions, crime syndicates, etc., invariably follow such gambling activity.

"Besides, the socio-cultural and religious heritage of our country has never encouraged gambling in any form more so in Haryana where the influence of the Arya Samaj has been deeply pervasive."

Mr Chautala was so annoyed with Mr Vardhan, whom he rightly considered to be the author of the Governor's note, that he declined to issue appreciation letters for three years as ordered by Babu Parmanand. Mr Vardhan got his due only after Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda became the Chief Minister.

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