Why make everyone swear in name of God, lawyer petitions court in Assam

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The Oaths Act of 1969 violates the rights of non-believers who swear by scientific thinking, an Assam-based lawyer said in his petition

The Oaths Act of 1969 violates the rights of non-believers who swear by scientific thinking, an Assam-based lawyer said in his petition

Why should an atheist or non-believer be made to swear in the name of God, an Assam lawyer has asked the Gauhati High Court.

Fazluzzaman Mazumder, a lawyer who practises at the court, said the Oaths Act of 1969 that entails swearing in the name of God in a courtroom is a hindrance to the exercise of liberal and scientific thinking guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

In his petition to the court, he said Form 1 and Section 6 of the Oaths Act make a person swear in the name of God while declaring anything in court. When Article 25 protects the rights of believers and non-believers, he asked why an atheist petitioner should be made to take oath in the name of God.

Mr Mazumder said he “is not at all a believer in supernatural power or entity” as a “secular, liberal and scientific-minded citizen” and believes there is “no religion greater than brotherhood and humanity”. He does not observe any religious rituals in his personal life and consequently does not believe in the existence of God, he said.

He added that his right to not believe in any religion or supernatural entity is recognised and guaranteed under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution. The essence of Article 25 is that the right to practice religion includes the right not to practice it, he argued.

“Further, Article 26 says that all denominations can manage their own affairs in matters of religion provided the same honours public order, morality and health,” his petition filed in the high court on November 10 read.

“The petitioner states that there may be many persons who do not like to be associated with a particular religion… Article 25 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right of a citizen to ‘freedom of conscience’. When a person is entitled to freedom of conscience and if his conscience suggests him not to follow any religion, then his right should also be granted as a matter of right,” the petition said.

Mr Mazumder also observed that Rule 30, Chapter IV of the Gauhati High Court Rule, 2015, creates obstacle to live life according to his belief.

The rule in question, he pointed out, mandates that “in administering oath and affirmation to declarants, the magistrate, notary or any officer or other person whom the high court appoints shall be guided by the Oaths Act, 1873, and swearing to be made in the name of God”.

He referred to the Supreme Court’s observation in the Sri Laxmi Yatendrulu case that ‘Article 25 assures every person subject to public order, health and morality, freedom not only to entertain his religious beliefs but also exhibit his belief in such outwardly act which he thinks proper to propagate or disseminate his ideas for edification of others’.

“…In the case of A.S. Narayan V State of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court observed that ‘our Constitution makers had used the word religion in Articles 25 and 26 in the sense conveyed by the word dharma. The honourable Supreme Court further explained the difference between religion and dharma as ‘religion is enriched by visionary methodology and theology, whereas dharma blooms in the realm of direct experience’. Religion contributes to the changing phases of a culture; dharma enhances the beauty of spirituality,” Mr Mazumder said.

The court is scheduled to hear the petition on November 14.

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