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"Why name them Akbar, Sita?": High Court asks Bengal to rename lions

Mangalore Today News Network/NDTV

Kolkata, Feb  23, 2024: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the West Bengal government to rename the lion "Akbar" and lioness "Sita", whose names caused a controversy after both animals were placed in the same enclosure at the Bengal Safari Park in Siliguri.



The court was hearing a petition by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to change the name of the lioness who was recently transferred to West Bengal from Tripura, reported Live Law.

The single-judge bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya, in an oral direction, asked the state to avoid controversy and consider renaming the animals.

"Will you name a lion after a Hindu deity, a Muslim prophet or Christian god or freedom fighter or nobel laureate? Generally anyone who is revered or respected by the people of our country?" Justice Bhattacharyya asked.

The Additional Advocate General (AAG), representing West Bengal, told the court that the lions were named in Tripura and the state itself was already considering renaming the lions.

The court also questioned the reasoning behind naming an animal after "a god, mythological hero, freedom fighter, or Nobel laureate" and asked why the state did not challenge the names given by Tripura.

"You are a welfare state and it is a secular state. Why should you draw controversy by naming a lion after Sita and Akbar? This controversy should have been avoided. Not only Sita, but I also don’t support the naming of a lion Akbar. He was a very efficient and noble Mughal emperor. Very successful and secular Mughal emperor. If it is already named, the state authority should shun it and avoid it," Justice Bhattacharyya said.

During the exchange, Justice Bhattacharyya also asked the AAG whether he had any pets and if they were named after "national heroes".

The court has directed the petition by Vishwa Hindu Parishad to be reclassified as a public interest litigation (PIL) and redirected it to a regular bench that can hears PILs.