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Why name lion, lioness 'Akbar' and 'Sita'?: Calcutta High Court asks Bengal to rename them

The Lion and Lioness were brought to West Bengal under an exchange programme with Tripura. The lawyer representing the Bengal government said that both of them were named in Tripura.

Shashwat Bhandari Edited By: Shashwat Bhandari @ShashBhandari New Delhi Published on: February 22, 2024 21:01 IST
Representational image
Image Source : FILE PHOTO Representational image

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the Bengal Zoo Authority to rename lion and lioness 'Akbar' and 'Sita' while hearing petitions filed by north Bengal unit of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other individuals, saying why create a controversy by giving such names.

The High Court's Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench further asked whether an animal can be named after gods, mythological heroes, freedom fighters, or Nobel laureaets.

Mentioning that Bengal is already burdened with several controversies including school jobs appointments to several other issues, Justice Saugata Bhattarcharyaa said, "Therefore, take a prudent decision, avoid this controversy."

"Why should you draw controversy by naming a lioness and a lion after Sita and Akbar?" The judge said Sita is worshipped by a large section of citizens, while Akbar "was a very successful and secular Mughal emperor."

Justice Bhattacharya said he did not support the names of both animals.

A lion named 'Akbar' and a lioness 'Sita' were brought from Tripura’s Sepahijala Zoological Park on February 12 to the Bengal Safari Park in Siliguri.

The VHP had filed a petition before the circuit bench praying that the names be changed as it has hurt the religious sentiments of a section of citizens.

Lion, lioness not named in Bengal, but in Tripura

The lawyer representing West Bengal claimed that the two animals were named in Tripura and not in Bengal and there are documents to prove it. The court said that if the naming was done there, then the zoo authority in Tripura is required to be made a party in the matter.

The judge said in his order that since a social organisation and two individuals came up with petitions claiming that the naming hurts the religious sentiments of a section of citizens of the country, it appears that the "personal right" of the petitioners is not in breach.

He said that the petitioners have rather espoused "the cause of a greater section" of people of India who belong to a particular religion.

The writ petition in its present form is not maintainable, the court said in its dictated order, holding that it can, however, be reclassified as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

Noting that naming of the two animals has already been done, Justice Bhattacharyya granted leave to the petitioners to reclassify the petition as a PIL.

The court directed that if the reclassification is done by Friday, the registry will transmit the same to the regular bench hearing PIL matters for consideration within 10 days. The judge then directed that the matter be released from the list in his court.

Lion, Lioness brought to Bengal under an exchange programme with Tripura

During the hearing of the matter, the state’s lawyer submitted that two animals were brought to West Bengal under an exchange programme, for which permission was granted by the central government.

He claimed that the lion and lioness received from Tripura bore the names of 'Akbar' and 'Sita' as per the documents sent by the Sepahijala zoo authority.

The state’s lawyer said the lion and lioness were born in Tripura in 2018 and 2016 respectively, but there was no protest so far about the names. Only when the animals were brought to Bengal that the petitioners woke up, he contended.

The judge then remarked that it is frequently said by leaders that "What Bengal thinks today, the rest of the nation thinks tomorrow". So, the state should show the path by renaming the two animals, he observed.

When informed by the petitioner's lawyer that a lioness at Alipore Zoo in Kolkata has the name 'Sruti', the judge said that this kind of name should be given to avoid controversy. An animal should not be named after any deity or figure belonging to any religion, the judge observed orally.

With inputs from PTI

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