The Bombay High Court has rejected the petition filed by the Federation of Retail Traders Association, challenging Maharashtra government’s decision mandating all shops and establishments in the state to display signboards in Marathi.
The bench of Justice Gautam Patel and Madhav Jamdar said, “Public purpose is sought to be achieved by the rule. Marathi maybe official language of state government, but it’s undeniably common language and mother tongue of state. It has own rich and diverse cultural heritage extending to literature and theatre.”
The bench said, “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 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.”
The association had pointed out that during the extended pandemic and lockdown, the retailers had suffered heavily and would not have fund for new signboards written in Marathi. Also, there were different areas in city like in certain parts the boards are written in Urdu while in some Marathi-dominated areas, the boards are already written in Devanagari said the association.
However, the bench said, “We are mindful that in some parts of nation, there is practice of using language other than local script. that is not the case here. No other language is prohibited here.”
While dictating the order, the bench observed, “The petition fails to recognise that this requirement is not meant to benefit retail traders, but it’s for benefit of workers therein and public who approach them. These are persons who are more likely to be familiar with Marathi in Devnagari script.”
The bench also imposed cost of Rs 25,000 on petitioner to be paid to CM Relief Fund within a week. Earlier this year, the MVA government in Maharashtra had passed a cabinet proposal asserting that all shops across the state should prominently display a signboard in Marathi.
The bench noted that the amendment to the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2017 had also mandated that the font of the Marathi-Devanagari script cannot be smaller than that of other scripts.