Do you know you can get arrested if you play the popular game PlayerUnknown's Battleground, or PUBG, in Gujarat? This is because the police believe that the game can allegedly lead to violent behaviour among children and youth, and adversely affect studies.
Launched in March 2018 in India, PUBG Mobile took the gaming world by storm, having been downloaded 200 million times as on December 2018, according to Tencent Games. However, the game has now been banned in Gujarat.
In fact, following the PUBG Mobile ban by Gujarat state government, the Rajkot police took 10 college students in custody for violation three days ago. They were booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 188 and Gujarat Police Act (GPA) 135 but were immediately granted bail. “The youngsters were caught violating the notification and so a legal action was taken against them. They were immediately bailed out and now courts will take a call on the matter," Manoj Agarwal IPS and Commissioner of Police Rajkot City, told Mint.
Eight more people were arrested in Ahmedabad and Himmatnagar from Gujarat since then, according to a PTI report.
In PUBG, 100 players are pitted against each other in an open world map. Every players’ virtual character is dropped on a remote island where they can play as lone wolf or team up with other players and hunt down other players. The game is also available on PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
IPC 188 is a minor offence, which is disobedience to any order promulgated by a public servant and punishable with one month imprisonment and fine of ₹200. Section 135 GPA, is an offence when you actually disobey an order which are given for prevention of riots or actions that disrupt public peace. It is punishable with 1 year imprisonment and fine. Both are bailable offences, which is why the youngsters got bail immediately, points out Pavan Duggal, advocate and leading cyberlaw expert.
However, Duggal believes that these are patent abuses of the process of law. “At a time when real criminals go scot free, innocent digital users are being targeted by invoking old antiquated section of law (GPA 135 is from1951 while IPC 188 goes back to 1860) which were never drafted keeping in mind the internet realities. Playing PUBG on mobile doesn’t pose any danger to public order," he adds.
On its part, PUBG Mobile’s publisher and distributor, Tencent Games, in an official statement on Sunday, expressed surprise when they found that local authorities in a few cities had put a ban on playing the game. The statement says, “We are working to understand the legal basis of such bans, and hope we can have a constructive dialogue with relevant authorities to explain our objectives and that they withdraw the prohibition."
They also point out that the game is meant merely for entertainment and they are working to introduce a healthy gameplay system in India to promote balanced, responsible gaming, including limiting play time for under-age players.
The same week when the youngsters were booked in Rajkot for playing the game, a bunch of teenagers bagged Rs30 lakh as prize money at a PUBG Mobile tournament held in Hyderabad.
Duggal feels, this sends a wrong message about India at the global level. Instead of prosecuting youngsters with antiquated laws the focus should be on making users more aware of the negative ramifications of violent games.
The directive to ban the game is currently limited to Gujarat. However, the game has faced backlash from parents across the country for being addictive and its violent nature. The game was recently restricted for children under 13 years in China