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Avoid naming animals as Sita, Akbar: Calcutta HC over safari park row

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Senjo M R
February 22, 2024 20:48 IST
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The Calcutta high court on Thursday orally asked the West Bengal Zoo Authority to consider renaming the lioness and lion called 'Sita' and 'Akbar' in the safari park in Siliguiri, and wondered why create a controversy by giving such names.

Image used for representational purpose only. Photograph: ANI Photo

Hearing petitions by the north Bengal unit of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and two other individuals, the high court's Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench asked whether an animal can be named after gods, mythological heroes, freedom fighters or Nobel laureates.


It then went on to ask whether a lion could be named after Swami Vivekananda or Ramakrishna Paramahansa.

Observing that West Bengal is already burdened with several controversies starting from school jobs appointments to several other issues, Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya said, "Therefore, take a prudent decision, avoid this controversy."

Maintaining that this would not be reflected in his order, the judge suggested to the state's lawyer that he use his good offices and ask the zoo authorities to give different names to the lion and the lioness.

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

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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