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Supreme Court adjourns SLP against Bombay High Court order mandating shops to have signboards in Marathi language

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The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned a Special Leave Petition, which challenged the Bombay High Court order that upheld the validity of Rule 35 of the Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act, mandating signboards to be in Marathi language in Devanagari script on top and having the same font size as any other language.

The Maharashtra government, by way of an amendment, had recently incorporated Rule 35 into the main Act as Section 36-A, making it applicable to shops and establishments with even less than 10 workers.

A bunch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of this provision and also on whether the State could impose its official language in matters of trade and business came up for hearing today before the Division Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice B.V. Nagarathna.

During the hearing, Justice Joseph pointed out to the Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners that a letter for adjournment had been circulated by the respondents.

The Counsel for petitioners opposed the adjournment letter, saying that this was the third time that the respondents sought adjournment in the matter.

Justice Joseph then pointed out the earlier order passed by the Apex Court, which had directed the authorities concerned not to take any coercive steps against the petitioners.

Justice Nagarathna asked the petitioners as to why they were opposing the use of Marathi language, since it would help in bringing more people to their shops and establishments.

The Counsel for petitioners alleged that the decision was politically-motivated, since the situation after the change of government in Maharashtra had become such that the new government neither wanted to be seen supporting it, nor opposing it. 

However, the Apex Court remained unconvinced and adjourned the matter.

(Case title: Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association vs State of Maharashtra)

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