“It is all a matter of ego,” says SC and advises following the compulsory Marathi signboard rule rather than spending money on advocates

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On September 01, the Supreme Court of India advised retailers to follow the compulsory Marathi signboard rule in Mumbai rather than spending money on advocates to challenge the rule. The same was said while hearing the petition against the Bombay High Court’s decision mandating a ‘name board in Marathi’ at every shop, big or small, in Mumbai. The matter was heard by a two-judge bench including Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice BV Nagarathna. During the court proceedings, Justice Narathna orally remarked, “What is the difficulty in putting a new board? What is the grave Constitutional question? How does it prejudice your right to do business? Put a wooden board and get it painted. You should not fight at all. You are doing business in the State. People who do not know Marathi should be able to read. Mumbai is in Maharashtra, it is the capital. It is all a matter of ego, because they want jingoism, that it is xenophobia and all…Rather than spending money on advocates, please put a board.” The petitioners also argued that imposing Marathi on signboards would affect their brand value further impacting their fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g), freedom to practice any trade or profession. 

In this case, the petition was filed by the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association where its Lawyer Mohini Priya said, “We are not against the promotion of the Marathi language. The rules require it to be prominently displayed above any other language on the signboard. Such a rule may be mandatory for official purposes but not for shops. Mumbai is a cosmopolitan and people from all states come here.” Last month, the state government in its affidavit said that the use of Marathi signboards was already a part of the rules before the amendment. It also stated that after the amendment, the new provision allowed the same to shops with less than 10 employees. The government said the change has been made “Purely for the benefit of the Marathi-speaking population of Maharastra, thereby making it more accessible and recognizable and to further inculcate the feeling of belongingness to the native land.” After hearing the contentions, the bench gave three weeks time to the petitioners to file a rejoinder to the state government’s affidavit.