The Calcutta High Court on Thursday orally suggested to the West Bengal government that lioness Sita in the Bengal Safari Park at Siliguri could be renamed, reported Live Law.

Seven-year-old lion Akbar and five-year-old lioness Sita were brought to the safari park in Siliguri from Tripura’s Sepahijala Zoological Park on February 13.

Following this, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s West Bengal wing moved the Jalpaiguri circuit bench of the High Court against the forest department allegedly keeping a lion named Akbar and a lioness named Sita in the same enclosure at the safari park.

“Akbar” was the name of the third Mughal emperor who reigned from 1556 to 1605 while “Sita” is a Hindu deity from the epic Ramayan.

The outfit claimed that housing Sita with Akbar would be an insult to the Hindu religion. Stating that the act “amounts to blasphemy”, it had sought the name of the lioness to be changed.

Hearing the case on Thursday, a single bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya said that Sita is worshipped by a majority of citizens of India and Akbar was an efficient, successful and secular Mughal emperor, reported Bar and Bench.

“Mr Counsel, will you yourself name your own pet after some Hindu god or Muslim prophet,” Justice Bhattacharyya asked Additional Advocate General Debjyoti Choudhary, who was appearing for West Bengal. “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?”

Choudhary clarified at the beginning of the hearing that the names were given by the Tripura zoo authorities, and not West Bengal. He said that the controversy around the name erupted only after the animals were transported to West Bengal.

“We are not talking about the name of the pet animals of an officer of the zoo department,” the court responded. “But you are a welfare and a secular state, why should you draw a controversy by naming a lion after Sita and Akbar?”

Further, Justice Bhattacharyya said that West Bengal is already mired in several controversies and a row around the names of the animals could have been avoided.

The additional advocate general then told the court that he would ensure the lions are given new names and urged Justice Bhattaacharyya to dismiss the petition.

The court said that as the matter deals with the religious sentiments of a large group of people, the plea would have to be reclassified as a public interest litigation.

It directed that the matter be placed before the regular bench having determination over public interest litigations.