Should everyone in the witness box be asked to swear in the name of God? What if someone’s an atheist?
The question came to the discussion table in Bombay high court on Thursday when two petitions were filed seeking liberty to people who are “atheists”to take oath in the name of Constitution in the courts, instead of swearing in the name of God.
Currently, as per Oath Act, 1969, a witness or any person who deposes in the court, can swear in the name of God or by placing hands on a religious book.
In a PIL, a Pune-based couple, Sunil Mane and his wife Laxmikanta, cited a couple of cases in Maharashtra at Bhivandi magistrate court and Pune district court wherein senior government officials have told the court that they do not believe in God and expressed their willingness to take oath in the name of Constitution but unfortunately they have not been permitted, the PIL said.
In another petition, an officer of Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation has made a similar plea.
Both the petitions are slated to come up for hearing in due course, high court sources said.
“The Oaths Act, 1969, needs to be declared as violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution,” the Pune-based couple said in the PIL.
They urged the court to issue directions to the Union and state governments that persons who are not willing to take oath in the name of God or by putting their hands on any religious book should be allowed to take oath in the name of Indian Constitution.
“People who are not believers of God but have full faith in the Indian Constitution are getting denial during judicial proceedings at various levels in Maharashtra when they request that they be administered oath in the name of Indian Constitution,” the PIL said.
“It is high time to make the oath system suitable to democracy and in accordance with the spirit of Indian Constitution,” the PIL states.
Advocate Asim Sarode, through whom the PIL has been filed, said, “People, who are non-believers of God, are not allowed to swear in the name of Indian Constitution or placing hands on the rule book.”
He said that a person of any religion would not have objection to taking oath in the name of Constitution as it is his or her duty to abide by the Constitution.
“This will help avoid flaring of communal thoughts and feelings and it will also not create problems for people who are atheists,” Sarode added.