When minister of State Sultan Ahmed took oath of office on Thursday and said 'Allah' instead of 'God', he didn't stray from the script and it wasn't an oath of oops, as many feared for a moment.
For the Trinamool Congress leader, religiously, it was the right thing to say. “For a believing Muslim, Allah is the more correct word,” said Delhi-based cleric Qari Abus Sattar.
But was it politically correct? Yes, if legal opinion and a Supreme Court ruling are anything to go by.
Even atheist ministers can simply “solemnly affirm” and forego the word God.
Of the 59 ministers sworn in on Thursday, 12 skipped the word God.
The Supreme Court had in 2007 ruled that taking oath of office in the name of ‘Allah’ was legally valid and not a violation of the Constitution, setting aside a petition by Madhu Parumala, vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Kerala.
Prior to this, the Kerala High Court too had approved of taking official oath in the name of Allah. Parumala had urged the court to invalidate the swearing in of 11 legislators who had taken oath in the name of Allah on May 24, 2006.
“The purpose of administration of oath to a minister is to ensure total commitment to the Constitution and secrecy required to discharge his or her duties. It matters less as to what precise words are used so long as the intention is honest,” said Mumbai-based legal expert Majid Memon, speaking from London.
Muslim ministers have in the past taken oath in the name of Allah, and till the Supreme Court decree, they did court controversy.
Not any more. God, Allah or Ishwar is fine, the Supreme Court viewed in 2007.
“This only stands the scrutiny of our secular credentials,” said Muslim commentator Sheikh Manzoor.
The verdict upholding an official oath in the name of Allah also found mention in the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2007.
“Observing that Allah is synonymous with God, the high court dismissed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the oath taken by 11 Muslim members of the Kerala Legislative Assembly who had used the name of Allah,” the US government report said.
Article 193 of the Constitution lays down a fine of Rs 500 a day for members taking part in House proceedings without taking oath under the given format.