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Calcutta High Court asks West Bengal government to change names of lions Akbar, Sita

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday ordered for the reclassification of a plea lodged by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as a public interest litigation, and for it to be placed before the regular bench having determination over PILs.

The Calcutta High Court further verbally asked the West Bengal government to consider renaming the lioness called Sita, who is worshiped as goddess among Hindus, in order to avoid controversy. On being informed that the lioness at Alipore zoo was called Sruti, the bench orally remarked that these are the uncontroversial names. 

The bench further questioned, will someone 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?

Earlier, a single bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya, which had directed the State counsel to obtain instructions on whether the pair of lions brought in from Tripura Zoo were named Akbar and Sita by the West Bengal Zoo authorities.

The Additional Advocate General (AAG) submitted that the naming of the lions had taken place in Tripura, and it was the responsibility of the Tripura Zoo authorities. The Additional Advocate General (AAG) also submitted that the writ petition filed by the VHP would not be maintainable as there was no element of personal rights of the petitioners which were involved and that the State itself was looking into the possibility of renaming the lions.

Considering the submissions, the Bench was of the view that due to the nature of the petition which espoused the rights of a large group of people, and claimed that naming a lion after Sita, who was worshipped by many Hindus would hurt their religious sentiments, the plea would have to be reclassified as a PIL, and the present bench would not have determination to hear the same.

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