Calcutta High Court renamed Lioness to avoid controversy


Calcutta High Court on Thursday verbally observed that the naming of a lioness and lion as “Sita” and “Akbar” should have been shunned to avoid controversy.

Wondering if a lion could be named after Swami Vivekananda or Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the bench suggested that the West Bengal Zoo Authority take a prudent decision by renaming those two animals.

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

Calcutta High Court renamed Lioness

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has filed a petition before the circuit bench praying that the name be changed as it has hurt the religious sentiments of a section of citizens.

Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya asked whether an animal can be named after gods, mythological heroes, freedom fighters, or Nobel laureates.

Calcutta High Court

The Judge verbally said that such naming of the animals should have been shunned to avoid controversy.

West Bengal is already burdened with several controversies starting from school job appointments to several other issues, he said “Therefore, take a prudent decision, avoid this controversy.” Maintaining that this would not be reflected in the order, the Judge suggested that the state’s lawyer use his good office and ask the zoo authorities to give different names to the lion and the lioness to avoid controversy.

The court said that India is a secular country and every community has the right to pursue or follow their religion.

The Judge asked, “Why should you draw controversy by naming a lioness and a lion after Sita and Akbar?” He said that Sita was 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.

The lawyer representing the state claimed that the two animals were named in Tripura and not in West Bengal and there are documents to prove it.

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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 its order that since a social organization 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 the 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.

Justice Bhattacharyya directed that the matter be released from the list in his court.

During the hearing of the matter, the state’s lawyer submitted that two animals were brought to the Bengal Safari Park from Sepahijala Zoological Park in Tripura under an exchange program, 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 that the lion and lioness were born in Tripura in 2018 and 2016 respectively, but no protest was made so far about the names.

Only when the animals were brought to Bengal that the petitioners woke up, he stated.

The Judge then said 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.

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.

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