Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Issue of the oath of an elected representative

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Third schedule of Constitution

Mains level : Paper 2- Oath of an elected representative

Context

Some Cabinet Ministers in Karnataka who took oath recently stood out from the rest.  All these oaths run against the spirit of the Constitution.

Background of agnostic Constitution

  • The public officials who took office under the Government of India Act, 1935 had to take oath which had no mention of God.
  • During the Constituent Assembly debate, B.R. Ambedkar proposed the Preamble, “We, the people of India…”.
  •  H.V. Kamath moved an amendment to the Preamble, “In the name of God, we, the people of India…”.
  • To this proposal, another member, A. Thanu Pillai said that if this amendment is accepted it would affect the fundamental right of freedom of faith.
  • He said that a man has a right to believe in God or not, according to the Constitution.
  • H.N. Kunzru opposed Kamath’s amendment stating that in a matter that vitally concerns every man individually, the collective view should not be forced on anybody.
  • The amendment was defeated, thereby excluding ‘God’ from the Preamble.
  • Thus, our founding fathers gave us an agnostic Constitution.

What are provisions in Consitution

  • The public officials who took office under the Government of India Act, 1935 had to take oath which had no mention of God.
  • However, the framers of the Indian Constitution rejected this conception of secularism.
  • Constitution gives office-holders an option to swear in God’s name if they so wished.
  • The Supreme Court of India observed in 2012 that the oath by an elected representative should be taken “in the name of God” if the person is a believer or should be “solemnly affirmed” if the person is a non-believer.
  • The Supreme Court said that the oath of an elected representative should be in strict compliance with the wordings of the Constitution. 

Way forward

  • As the Republic belongs to all the citizenry, irrespective of whether he is a theist, atheist or agnostic, and irrespective of his caste or religion, a person occupying a constitutional post should take oath in the format of ‘“solemnly affirm”.
  • The Constitution should be amended accordingly.

Conclusion

If a person takes the oath in the name of a God affiliated to a particular religion or caste, the citizenry cannot expect the absence of affection or ill-will from him. The allegiance of a person holding a constitutional post should only be to the Constitution.

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