In India, the oath has been essential in court proceedings. People would swear under oath to declare that they are not guilty. By taking an oath, people also attest to the genuineness of their remarks. This practice has religious and cultural origins.
The Oaths Act of 1969 (ACT NO. 44 OF 1969) is a special statute that governs swearing under oath in legal procedures. Each of the rules, liabilities, and other details related to swearing within court processes are included in this Act. The different ways of taking an oath are determined under this Act.
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The Oaths Act
The Oaths Act was enacted on 26th December 1969 to integrate and amend the law relating to judicial oaths and other purposes. Certain courts and persons are given the power to administer oaths. The Oaths Act of 1969 applies to the whole of India. The exception falls under Section 2 of the Oaths Act 1969, which states that the Act does not apply to court-martial proceedings or oaths and affirmations of members of the Armed forces prescribed by the government.
What is an Oath?
Oath is the act of someone who, when legally obligated to tell the truth, swears in the name of God to testify that whatever they say is true, or it is a statement made in accordance with the law, which is true, under a competent tribunal or officer.
Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code 1860
This provision talks about the punishment for giving false evidence.
Any person who knowingly provides false testimony in any part of a legal proceeding faces the following consequences:
- Punished with either type of imprisonment for a term extending to 7 years. They can also be subject to a fine.
- In other cases, the person will be punished with either type of imprisonment for a term extending to 3 years and liable to pay a fine.
The objective of this section is to forbid people from purposefully providing misleading information or evidence in court. The rule seeks to preserve the legitimacy of the legal system. This protects the integrity of judicial processes and guarantees that precise and genuine information is presented in the court.
In a court proceeding, when a person willfully tells a lie, it is known as perjury. The IPC’s Section 193 intends to discourage people from committing perjury by enforcing severe penalties for providing false testimony.
History of Oath
The prevailing belief was that society as a whole had a strong devotion to God, and individuals greatly respected their religion. Consequently, when swearing an oath, people would pledge to speak the truth. Whenever a king served as a judge during the Mughal Era to settle disputes, witnesses were required to swear an oath by placing their hands on their respective holy texts like Gita, Quran, and Bible. However, the British government outlawed this practice in 1873 by bringing a standard system which was the Indian Oaths Act, of 1873.
Despite the Indian Oaths Act of 1873, the Bombay High Court maintained this practice until 1957. The 28th Law Commission reports raised the question that non-believers in God or an atheist might deceive by swearing an oath to religious texts. The Oath Act of 1969 was created after taking this matter into account.
Why Does the Witness Have to Take an Oath?
After taking an oath, it is assumed that the person will only state the truth. Oath is a pledge taken by a witness or any other person to proclaim they will adhere to the truth and justice will prevail. A witness is allowed to speak in a court only after taking an oath in a court. According to Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, if a person lies in a courtroom after swearing to tell the truth, it will constitute a crime, and they will be liable for punishment.
Power to Administer the Oath
Section 3 of the Oaths Act of 1969 states that certain courts and persons have the power to administer the oath by themselves or, subject to Section 6 (2) provisions. They can also give this power to other persons on their behalf for doing such duties as per the authority given under this section. Such power is given to the following people:
- Every court and individual that has the legal authority to accept evidence or accept the evidence with the permission of the parties.
- The Commanding Officer of any armed forces, naval, or air force station or ship used by the Armed Forces of the Union can give an oath or affirmation within the station’s boundaries.
- Any court Judge, Magistrate, or individual can give oaths and affirmations for the sake if granted permission by one of the following:
- By the High Court for affidavits which are for judicial proceedings
- By the State Government for all other affidavits.
Forms of Oath and Affirmation
Section 6 of the Oaths Act of 1969 states that every oath and affirmation taken per Section 4 must be given using one of the documents listed in the Schedule.
The provision to the section says that a witness in any judicial proceeding can give evidence in the following scenarios:
- They are under oath in whatever manner generally used by members of the class to which he belongs.
- They are obligated to uphold justice and morality.
- It does not affect any third party.
The court’s presiding officer should administer all the oaths and affirmations for the courts, which are not a High Court or Supreme Court. When there is a bench of Judges or Magistrates, such oaths should be administered by any one of the judges or magistrates.
Witnesses are Required to Tell the Truth
Section 8 of the Oaths Act of 1969 talks about the essence of the oath, which is truth. Any person testifying in court or any person permitted by this document to take an oath is required to tell the truth about the matter at hand.
Oaths can have different meanings and formalities depending on the culture and legal system. The idea of an oath is frequently deeply established in historical, religious, and cultural practices. Thus, taking an oath is crucial in supporting public declarations and decisions supported by the oath’s ethical weight.
The premise of the Justice administration is that it would be fair, and no falsity or fabrication occurs. Taking an oath can serve as a pathway to truth, as it sometimes exposes loopholes that can be exploited for personal gains. However, such a situation can also provide a valuable lesson to the person involved.
FAQs About the Oaths Act
What is an Oath?
An oath is a declaration to answer all the questions truthfully. In the legal field, oaths are used to guarantee the validity of testimony and declarations made in court.
Why do people take oaths?
An oath is taken for the following reasons:
- To show commitment to the action.
- To show affirmation of the statement that they make.
- To hold personal accountability.
- To show that evidence produced is true.
What is a false oath?
A false oath is a false swearing in which someone gives misleading or fake information. It mostly occurs in court proceedings when a person tries to misguide the proceeding, and this leads to legal consequences when done knowingly. The act is known as perjury.
What is the difference between an oath and affirmation?
An oath is a declaration for answering all questions correctly. An oath can be done in the name of God. Affirmation is a solemn declaration not done in God's name. Under the Oath Act, a person can choose between oath and affirmation based on their belief.