Author: Advait Sharma, University Five Year Law College, Jaipur


The case of R.M.D. Chamarbaugwalla v. Union of India, commonly known as the RMDC case, was a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in 1957. The case involved a constitutional challenge to the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, which prohibited certain forms of gambling in the state of Bombay. The Supreme Court held that the Act was valid and did not violate the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The Court reasoned that the Act was enacted to protect public morals and prevent social evils associated with gambling. It also noted that the state had the power to regulate activities that were considered harmful to society. This case case highlighted the delicate balance between individual rights and societal interests in the context of legislative regulation. It underscored the importance of upholding public welfare while respecting fundamental rights, setting a significant legal precedent in Indian jurisprudence.


Case TitleR. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla vs Union of India [RMDC vs Union of India]
Citation1957 AIR  628, 1957 SCR 930
Date of Judgement09/04/1957
CourtSupreme Court Of India
AppellantR. M. D Chamarbaugwalla
RespondentThe Union of India
BenchCJI Sudhi Ranjan Das, Bhuvaneshwar P. Sinha, P. B. Gajendragadkar,T. L. Venkatarama Iyer.
ReferredArticle 19 (1),(6), Prize Competition Act,1955  


The case involved M/S R.M.D.C., who had been operating prize competitions in Mysore since 1948 under the Mysore Lotteries and Prize Competitions Control and Tax Act, 1951. Section 2(d) of the act was challenged. A central legislation called the Prize Competition Act, 1955 was subsequently enacted following appeals from various states, including Mysore, which welcomed the act. However, the State of Mysore later passed an ordinance to amend certain provisions of the act and assume taxation powers.

R.M.D.C., the petitioners, argued that the State’s action was beyond its legislative competence and constituted colourable legislation. They contended that the State of Mysore was indirectly trying to control prize competitions by appropriating taxation powers. The constitutional validity of Article 19(6) of the Indian Constitution was also questioned in the case.

The respondents countered the petitioners’ claims by arguing that the lottery and gambling business conducted by R.M.D.C. did not fall under trade and therefore did not violate any fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution.

The case was presented before the Apex Court, with Mr. Palkhivala representing the petitioners and Mr. Seervai representing the respondents. Both parties presented their arguments and contentions. The issue of severability, determining the validity of different parts of the Prize Competition Act, was a crucial aspect of the case. In summary, the case involved the challenge to the State of Mysore’s amendment of the Prize Competition Act and the constitutional validity of Article 19(6) in relation to prize competitions. The arguments focused on legislative competence, colourable legislation, and the classification of the lottery and gambling business under trade.


A petition is filed by the applicant on the ground of their violation of the fundamental rights under  Article   32   of   the   constitution   challenging   that  Article   19(6)   has   been   violated   as   a restriction is imposed on carrying on their business by the respondents. Further it was contended:

  • A petition is filed by the applicant on the ground of their violation of the fundamental rights under Article   32 of   the   constitution   challenging   that Article   19(6)   has   been   violated   as   a restriction is imposed on carrying on their business by the respondents.
  • Further it was contended by   the respondents   that   Section 2(d)   of   the   Prize   Competition  Act,  1955   doesn’t  cover   the competitions related to the gambling but the petitioners were of the view that the definition of prize   competition   under   Section   2(d)   of the Act is very wide and it not only covers the competitions of the gambling nature but also those in which success depended to a substantial degree on skill, which was a part of the petitioner’s business.
  • Further, On behalf of the Union of India  this was controverted and it was contended by the respondents that the definition, properly construed, meant and included only such competitions as were of a gambling nature, and even if that was  not  so, the impugned provisions, being  severable  in their application, were valid as regards gambling competitions.


The issues raised in R. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla vs Union of India were:

  • Whether the provisions of the Prize Competitions Act (42 of 1955) apply to competitions requiring substantial skill, not falling under the category of gambling, as per the definition of  “prize competition” in Section 2(d).
  • If the Act does apply, whether the provisions of Section 4 and 5, along with Rule 11 and 12, which are conceded to be invalid, can be enforced selectively through the principle of doctrine of severability in the context of competitions categorized as gambling.


  • The counsels for the Appellant submitted that they were actively involved in promoting and conducting prize competitions across various Indian states, contested the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 5 of the Prize Competitions Act (42 of 1955), along with Rules 11 and 12 framed under Section 20 of the Act.
  • Their argument rested on the interpretation of “prize competition” as defined in Section 2(d), asserting that it encompassed not only gambling competitions but also those reliant on a substantial degree of skill.
  • They contended in RMDC vs Union of India that these provisions infringed upon their fundamental right to conduct business under Article 19(6) of the Constitution. Additionally, they argued that the provisions formed a single inseverable enactment, necessitating the entire Act’s invalidation.


The counsels for the Respondent submitted that that the definition, when properly construed, only included competitions of a gambling nature.

  • The respondents argued that ‘prize competition’ as defined in s. 2(d) of the Act, properly constructed, means and includes only competitions in which success does not depend to any substantial degree on skill and gambling activities are not trade or business.
  • The petitioners cannot file the petition under Article 32 as there has been no violation under Art. 19(1)(g), and that accordingly the petitioners are not entitled to invoke the protection of Art. 19(6).
  • It was contented by the respondents even if some part of the Prize Competition Act is invalid that should be removed but the valid part should stand valid and the whole Act should not be entirely void.


In   R.M.D.C.   v.   Union   of   India   case,   the   issue   revolved   around   Section   2(d)   of   the   Prize Competition Act, 1955 whether that section provided there covers all kinds of competitions including the gambling which the petitioners owned. In this case, the violation of Art. 19(6) was contended by the petitioners because of some of the impugned provisions in this Act. The Apex Court said that the question of violation of the fundamental rights would not stand valid as the gambling is not covered under the trade and hence no violation of the fundamental right. The Apex Court considering all aspects held that the doctrine of severability would apply here and the provisions which are invalid would be excluded from the Act and the valid part will been forceable. Giving   this   judgment the court   laid down   the   various rules   on   the doctrine   of severability that were a part of American Courts as how to judge and draw a line between the valid and invalid parts of the statute.

Rules laid down for Severability:

  • If the valid and invalid provisions are totally mixed up with each other and hence cannot be separated then the whole Act would be invalid.
  • The determining factor in deciding whether the valid part of the statute can be separated from the invalid parts or not, is the intention of the legislature only.
  • If the valid and invalid parts of the statute are different and can be separated then the valid part which remains can form a complete code independent of the rest, will be checked. Then only it will be upheld.
  • Even when the provisions which are valid, are distinct and separate from those which are invalid form part of a single scheme which is intended to be operative as a whole, then also the invalidity of a part will result in the failure of the whole.
  • When the valid and invalid parts of the Statute are independent and do not form any part of the Scheme but what is left after excluding the invalid part is so thin and curtailed as to be in substance different from what it was when it emerged out of the legislature then also the entire part will be rejected.
  • The severability of the valid and invalid provisions of the Statute does not rely on whether the provisions are enacted in the same or different, it is not the form but the substance of the matter that is material and that has to be ascertained on the examination of the Act as a whole and of the settings of the relevant provisions therein.
  • If after the invalid part is obliterated from the statute, and what is left cannot be enforced without making the modifications and alterations, then the whole Act would be declared as void otherwise it would lead to judicial legislation.
  • To determine the legislative intent on the question of severability, it would be authorized to consider the history of the legislation, title, preamble and the purpose of it.


In the landmark case of RMDC v. Union of India, the petitioner challenged the constitutionality of provisions in the Prize Competitions Act (42 of 1955) related to gambling competitions. The court, following the precedent set in The State of Bombay v. R. M. D. Chamarbaugwala, held that the restrictions under Sections 4 and 5 were not challengeable under Article 19(6) of the Constitution, as gambling did not fall under Article 19(1)(g).

The court interpreted the Act to apply specifically to gambling competitions and ruled that even if it included skill-based contests, the contested provisions were severable, valid for gambling competitions, and not void.


R.M.D.C. v. Union of India, (1957) AIR SC 628

A.K Gopalan v. State of Madras, (1950) AIR SC27

 State of Bombay v. F.N Balsara, (1951) AIR SC 318

Minerva Mills v. Union of India, (1980) AIR SC 178

Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu, (1992) SCR (1) 686

State of Bombay v. The United Motors (India Ltd), (1953) AIR 252

D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, (1983) AIR SC 130

Chintaman Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1951) AIR 118 Nordenfelt v. Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company Ltd, (1894) AC 535

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