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Mumbai Shop Owners Face Backlash Over Lack Of Regional Signboards

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) initiated a drive to inspect signboards put up by local shopowners. Shopowners and retailers who have not hung boards with Marathi signage will face repercussions. According to state law, all shops must have the sign name in Marathi (Devnagri) script. 


The BMC started its inspections on October 10 and issued non-compliance notices to over 3,000 shops in nine days. The notices complied with the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 2017. The shops were penalized with a ₹2000 fine for each staff member. 


The Supreme Court (SC) gave Maharashtrian shopkeepers a two-month deadline. Shopkeepers across the state were supposed to install the signboards by then. The Deputy Municipal Commissioner of the BMC, Sanjog Kabare, stated that the penalties were within state and SC guidelines. 


The BMC has also decided to take note of repeat offenders and submit their names to the Supreme Court. 


The BMC will divide its staff into different teams at the ward level. Due to public holidays over the weekend, the drive will officially begin on Tuesday. The staff will be responsible for taking legal action and issuing penalties. 


The Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA), consisting of over 5,00,000 members, has challenged the Maharashtra State authority in the SC. They are against putting up regional signboards outside every big and small shop. 


In a turn of events, the Supreme Court agreed to the challenge issued by the Federation while continuing to implement the need for change. Upon hearing the petition put forth by the FRTWA, a bench comprising Justice B. V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan commented, “Now is the time to have Marathi signboards ahead of Diwali and Dusshera... You are in Maharashtra. You do not know the benefit of having Marathi signboards?”


Judges BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan stated that putting up Marathi signboards is not an act of prejudice. Rather that spending money on litigation, shopowners can put up boards easily. They also stated that shops cannot be exempted since Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city. 


The Federation earlier resisted attempts made by political groups to put up Marathi signboards. Lawyer Mohni Priya, representing the Federation, stated that their petition raised constitutional questions aimed at the law. The owners have a right to know if state law can mandate the use of a language and interfere in business dealings.


Owners are also against this, as their shops are located in a metropolitan area such as Mumbai. People from all over the country visit the city, not just from the state. Thus, having regional signboards might hinder business for some.


Last year, the SC declared that the BMC could not take coercive action against unwilling shopowners. The legal counsel for the FRTWA, Senior Counsel Gopal Shankarnarayan, and advocate Mohini Priya argued that the BMC was taking action against shops that were yet to put up the signs. 


Viren Shah, President of the FRTWA, stated that the association created a WhatsApp group to spread awareness among the shopowners. He also commented that the BMC has every legal right to take action against those who have not changed the signboards. 


FRTWA records show that over 5.5 lakh shop establishment licenses have been issued. Of these, 3,00,000 are retail shops. The remaining are private offices and clinics. Around 80% of shop owners have complied with the new law and put up new signboards.


Previously, the state government made it mandatory for shops and offices to display signs in the Devnagri script. However, those with less than ten employees attempted to evade this law. In some cases, the Devnagri script signboard was smaller than the English one. 


In 2022, the state government revised the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act. The revision stated that all shops must display a Devnagri script board equal in size to the English one.

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Tags: #India #Mumbai #Local #RegionalSignboards #Invertigative #Marathi


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