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“Will you name your pet after Hindu God or Muslim Prophet?” Calcutta High Court urges West Bengal to change names of lions from Sita, Akbar

All the same, single-judge Justice Saugata Bhattacharya urged the State of West Bengal to consider giving the two lions some other names to ensure that the controversy is put to rest.

The Court said that Sita is worshipped by a large majority of people in the country and Akbar was an efficient, successful and secular Mughal Emperor.

“Mr Counsel, will you yourself name your own pet after some Hindu God or Muslim Prophet…I think, if anyone of us would have been the authority, none of us would have named them as Akbar and Sita. Can anyone of us think of naming an animal after Rabindranath Tagore? Sita is worshipped by a larger section of this country….I also oppose naming the lion after Akbar. He was an efficient, successful and secular Mughal Emperor,” the Court remarked.

“You could have named it Bijli or something like that. But why to give such names of Akbar and Sita,” the Court further demanded.

The Court was hearing a plea by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) taking objection to the naming of the lion as Sita.

The plea by VHP alleged that giving the name Sita to the lioness hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and also infringed their right to religion.

The VHP thus prayed that action be taken to change the name of the lioness from “SITA” to any other common proper name and direct Bengal Safari Park to initiate immediate steps in renaming the animal with a name that is not connected to the Hindu religion.

Yesterday, the bench asked the State government to submit on record whether it has given the names Sita and Akbar to the two lions brought to Siliguri’s Bengal Safari Park from Tripura.

This was after Additional Advocate General (AAG) Debjyoti Choudhary told the Court that the State hasn’t given any names to the animals. 

When the matter was taken up for hearing today, the AAG made it clear that the names were given by Tripura Zoo authorities and not West Bengal.

He also produced relevant documents to support his argument.

“Milords, it was done by Tripura not West Bengal. These animals were born in 2016 and 2018. Till 5 years no one challenged these names but once they came to West Bengal, they started this controversy,” the AAG said.

The Court said that naming lions after religious deity or historically revered personalities does not bode well.

“I was thinking yesterday night whether an animal can be named after God, mythological character, hero, freedom fighters or even noble laureates? Can a lion be named after Swami Vivekananda or Ramkrishna Paramhans? Can this be done? Though we aren’t considering the issue but think about it. We aren’t talking about the name of the pet animals of an officer of the zoo department. But you are a welfare and a secular State why should you draw a controversy by naming a lion after Sita and Akbar,” the single-judge asked.

The Court furthers said that the State is already seeing many controversies and this controversy is something which can be avoided.

“You should have avoided this controversy. Our State is already suffering from several controversies. Right from appointment of teachers to other controversies. Everybody is behind (West Bengal). Therefore, a decision can be taken to avoid the controversy,” the Court said.

It also asked AAG about whether he has pet dogs and what their names are.

“One is Toffy, Tuffle and Theo,” the AAG replied.

“Isn’t this prudent naming? Otherwise next day it would appear in newspapers that Mr. AAG’s dogs’ names are after national heroes etc. Nobody can challenge such names. You being the AAG of this court, pls set an example and ask your authorities to rename them,” the single-judge said.

The AAG said that he will ensure that the lions are given new names but urged the Court to dismiss the petition.

The Court since the lions have been named and the petitioners are claiming that it has hurt religious sentiments of Hindu community, the matter will have to be examined but by way of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition.

Hence, it ordered that the plea be reclassified as a PIL and listed the same before the bench which hears PILs.

“Please avoid controversy ask your officers to rename these animals….Reserve an uncontroversial name. Please don’t name any animal after a Hindu God, Muslim prophet, Christians, noble laureates, freedom fighters etc. Generally, who are reverred and respected, their names shouldn’t be given,” the Court added as the hearing drew to a close.

Source: Barandbench

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