The SC made it clear that it was not passing a general order of no coercive steps and the relief is for the Association and its members. It sought a list of members to be furnished by the association.
The federation and its president Viren Shah had gone to the SC against a Bombay high court ruling that had upheld the rule framed under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act.
The Maharashtra government wants traders and shop owners to display the names of shops and establishments in Marathi language in Devanagari script.
Senior counsel Gopal Shankarnarayan for the Association appearing before a bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy sought the interim protection from coercive action. He said till the special leave petition (SLP) filed in June is pending, the State be asked to hold its hands and impose no penalty or force compliance.
The HC said the no coercive order is for the petitioner’s members. The state sought time to file a reply and the SC giving it time posted the matter next to November 18.
The association’s ground for challenge is that the rule is unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental right of speech and trade of retailers.
The HC had in February upholding the rule said, “Marathi is not merely the official language of the state government; it is undeniably the common language and mother tongue of the State. It has its own extremely rich and diverse cultural tradition extending to every field of endeavour from literature to theatre and beyond. There are texts that are in Marathi and these are expressed and written in Devanagari.”
The HC had also questioned the “real intent and purpose” of the petition filed by the Association before it against the Marathi sign board rule. The HC bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Madhav Jamdar had said, “They appear to be entirely politically motivated, for what purpose we do not know. But we strongly deprecate the mindless deployment of such ad hominem assaults on the very people the Petitioners have chosen to live amongst and to do business with.”
The HC had also said, “We cannot but help wonder what is the real intent and purpose of this petition at all, particularly given the fact that Rule has been in existence since 2018. Certainly…, a Federation of Retail Traders and Welfare Association, could not have been unaware of the existence of the Rule. Indeed, this Rule existed even prior to 2018, though its operation was stayed. The point is that the Petitioners could not have become aware of this Rule only in February 2022.”