In a setback for Federation of Retail Traders Association, the Bombay High Court (HC) on Wednesday, February 23, rejected their petition which challenged Maharashtra government’s decision mandating all shops and establishments in the state to display signboards in Marathi.
The court upheld state’s rule, calling it “reasonable requirement”. Marathi is the mother tongue of Maharashtra and a rule for mandatory Marathi signboards outside any shop or other places can’t be termed discrimination, the court added.
Moreover, the two-judge bench comprising Justice Gautam S Patel and Justice Madhav J Jamdar also imposed a cost of INR 25,000 on the petitioner organisation and asked the amount to be deposited in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund within a week.
The court observed that no other language or script is prohibited or banned, however, the requirement of display of name in Marathi in Devanagri is reasonable in Maharashtra.
In its order, the HC said that a Public purpose is sought to be achieved by the said Rule. There is a broader public purpose and rationale. Marathi may be the official language of the state government, but it is an undeniably common language and mother tongue of the state… It has its own extremely rich and diverse cultural traditions extending to every field of endeavour from literature to theatre and beyond. There are texts in Marathi which are expressed and written in Devanagari.
The high court stated, “To say that there is some sort of invidious discrimination is wholly untrue. If any retailer wishes to carry out trade in Maharashtra, it shall be subject to condition that government imposes on all. Clearly there is no violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.”
For those unversed, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government in January had passed the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2017 mandating the use of Marathi in signboards. However, the law does not apply to establishments and shops with less than 10 employees.