Moving the high court and asking for time to learn Marathi -- taxi unions here were Thursday contemplating various moves following the Maharashtra government’s directive to make it compulsory henceforth for cabbies to be domiciled in the state and have knowledge of Marathi.

The Mumbai Taximen’s Union (MTU) said it would move the Bombay High Court to challenge the government’s move, which came Wednesday, and was consulting lawyers.

MTU leader A.L. Quadros said the decision was “undemocratic and discriminating” and totally unacceptable to Mumbai’s taxi drivers.

He also indicated that they could resort to mass agitations like shutting down taxi services in the city.

City Taxi Union head Mushtaque Qureshi has appealed to the government to give taxi drivers sufficient time to learn Marathi.

Defending the move, State Transport Commissioner Dilip Jadhav said the government was merely implementing existing clauses in the Motor Vehicles Act.

“Under MVA Sub-Sec. 8(24), the taxi permit holder must be domiciled in Maharashtra and should be able to converse in Marathi. We are now only implementing this existing provision,” he said.

The Maharashtra government had Wednesday made it mandatory for new applicants for taxi driver permits to be domiciled in the state and be able to read, write and speak Marathi.

The decision will not affect the existing 35,000 permit holders but will be applicable for the 24,000 fresh permits that will be issued over the next six years.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan here Wednesday afternoon.

The move would effectively debar a large majority of people from outside Maharashtra, especially north Indians, for whom a quick and lucrative employment option is plying taxis here.

Besides the implementation of the MVA provisions, the government has stipulated that the new taxis would be fitted with GPS/GPRS equipment, radiophones, airconditioner, electronic meters with bill printers and would run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

“The aim is to provide modern, reliable, eco-friendly and comfortable taxi service. We shall make necessary amendments in the MVA for the purpose for the issuance of new taxi permits,” an official statement said.