The overarching issue revolves around the civic body's mandate in Mumbai, requiring businesses to display their names in Marathi Devnagari script. The inspection of over three thousand establishments uncovered 176 businesses failing to comply with this rule. This linguistic transition is rooted in an amendment to the Maharashtra Shop and Establishment Act, which extended its applicability to include smaller businesses with less than ten employees. Amid the confusion, business owners are not sure about the effective order to date and the civic body is issuing notice to the businesses not complying with the order.
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Deadline of Compliance
The deadline for compliance with the Marathi Devnagari signage mandate is November 25th. The Supreme Court, after lifting the stay effective until September 2023, granted a two-month window for businesses to replace their signboards with the stipulated script. The issue is with the businesses that they did not get enough time to implement the new rules and change the signboards. The lack of awareness caused the inconvenience and prosecution notices were also filed against many entities.
Supreme Court Order
The amendment took place in February 2022. The Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) contested the amendment in the Supreme Court. After hearing the plea of FRTWA the Supreme Court stayed the previous order to change the signboards. Later the stay was lifted in September 2023. At the time of lifting the stay, the Supreme Court ordered the implementation of the previous order within the next two months.
The civic body could not spread awareness regarding the said order among the masses which has resulted in noncompliance with the signboard rules. The order came on the 25th of September and the rule had to be implemented by November 25th.
Challenges Faced by Business Owners
Business owners are confronted with multifaceted challenges, including a need for more awareness about the sudden enforcement, the short deadline for compliance, and the necessity to transition English names into Marathi Devnagari script. The potential financial burden of fines for non-compliance and the legal proceedings further compound the challenges.
Problems with Adopting English Names to Marathi Devnagari
The transition from English names to Marathi Devnagari script poses a significant challenge, impacting the visual identity of businesses. Some names in English may not seamlessly integrate into the prescribed script, requiring adjustments beyond mere linguistic translation. This will affect the brand image of the businesses that are generally identified by their name in another language. For that matter, they have to rely on the logo only while so far the name was also a visual identity of the business.
Problems with Lack of Awareness
A lack of awareness among businesses adds a layer of complexity to the issue. The sudden enforcement caught many establishments off guard, exacerbating difficulties in understanding and complying with the regulatory mandates. There was a two-month period between the order of the Supreme Court and the deadline for the implementation of the same. But most of the businesses were not aware of this fact and failed to comply with the rules on time. This resulted in a lot of confusion among the business owners and chaos in the market.
The Challenge of Fulfilling Compliance by the Deadline
The short deadline for compliance, set by the Supreme Court, presents a logistical challenge for businesses. The task of replacing signboards with Marathi Devnagari script within the stipulated two-month window adds pressure to an already complex transition. It takes effort and time to change the signboard, which involves the taking off old signboard, either rectifying the same or ordering a new signboard with the new name in Marathi Devnagari script as stipulated under the order of the supreme court. Further, the same signboard also has to be installed at the designated location. All this process requires time and effort which is not possible if the entity got awareness about the implementation of these rules just a few days before the deadline.
Consequence of Non-Compliance
Non-compliance with the issued notices and regulatory rules may lead to severe consequences. Prosecution notices under Section 35 of the Shop and Establishment Act have been issued. If businesses fail to comply, they may face legal proceedings in the Bombay High Court. The maximum fine of 2000 rupees per staffer adds financial stakes to the consequences of non-compliance. The fine is dynamic based on the size of the business entity. For example, if a single staff is operating the business then only two thousand rupees have to be paid as a fine while on the other hand if the number of staff in another business entity is 12 then that business needs to pay twenty-four thousand rupees as fine.
The enforcement of the Marathi Devnagari signage mandate in Mumbai has posed significant challenges for businesses. The Supreme Court's order, implemented in September 2023 with a compliance deadline of November 25th, has led to issues such as linguistic transitions, lack of awareness, and a short timeframe for compliance. The consequences of non-compliance, including prosecution notices and substantial fines, add financial stakes to the challenges faced by businesses. To ensure a smoother transition, there is a need for increased awareness, a more measured implementation approach, and consideration of practical difficulties encountered by businesses. Balancing linguistic and cultural considerations with the realities of business operations is crucial for the successful execution of such mandates.
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