Madras High Court initiates suo motu proceedings to regulate violent online games


Concerned about the addiction of children to violent online games such as Free Fire and PUBG, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court initiated suo motu proceedings on Thursday to regulate the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications and YouTube channels that publish tutorials for banned games. The Court also urged the Union and State governments to hold awareness campaigns about the dangers of such games in schools and colleges.

After hearing a Habeas Corpus Petition (HCP) filed by a woman, a Bench comprised of Justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana Prasad initiated the proceedings. The petitioner claimed that her teenage daughter ran away with a man she met while playing the Free Fire game. 

The girl was eventually found, but many advocates complained during the hearing that their children were also addicted to such games, which the judges noted.

Despite the Union government's ban on such online games on February 14, 2022, the judges pointed out that they are easily available on pirated websites. The gamers bypass the Indian server in favour of another country's server via Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications, which can be downloaded from the Play Store.

These games include in-app purchases for ammunition, protective gear, unlocking additional levels, and other features. Children and teenagers demand money from their parents to purchase these features, even going so far as to steal money or kill themselves if their demands are not met, according to the judges, who added that calls or messages made through the games are not traceable and do not fall under the purview of any regulatory authority.

The judges ordered the Union and State governments to submit a detailed report explaining why the games are permitted despite a ban, claiming that such violent and addictive games affect children physically and mentally, causing them to lose focus on their studies. The Union Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the State Home Department, Cyber Crime, Resident Grievance Officers of YouTube, and Google have been added as parties to the case, which has been adjourned until October 27.