Pluralism, Texts, and Oaths

Bharat Gupt abhinav at DEL3.VSNL.NET.IN
Sat Mar 11 11:46:13 UTC 2000

Noel Salmond wrote:
> At 11:36 AM 3/9/00 -0800, you wrote:
> >Many Tamils take oath with Tirukkural in courts, swearing in
> >ceremonies, weddings. For a good translation,
> >K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Tirukkural, an English verse rendering,
> >M. P. Birla Foundation, 1988.
> >
> >P.S.Sundaram, The Kural, Penguin is easily available.
> >
> Would this be a text also used by Tamils from Sri Lanka for the same
> purposes?
> What is the policy of the Indian courts with regard to the use of sacred
> texts for oaths, is it optional altogether? Was or is their use debated
> given the commitment to secularism?
> in abysmal ignorance, but with many thanks
> Noel Salmond
> Carleton University
> Ottawa, Canada

In the trial Courts in the Delhi State, and I am told that in UP and Harayana also,the
witness is made to say, "I swear by Dharma that I shall speak the truth" (Main dharma se
kahataa hoon ki sach boloongaa). The Gita, is hardly ever brought out and put on the
table for swearing. This is the normal practice these days.

This has become popular because the courts have very little time for each case and
perhaps it is presumed that by uttering the word "dharma" the witness calls to the
source of his faith, whatever that it may be.

Muslims, however, do not use the word dharma. They swear by Khudaah or Allah and
Christians use the word God. ( I do not know what word in Hindi, Tamil or other
language, the totally non-English-knowing Christians use ).

Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists use the word dharma.

All Courts , including the High Courts, keep a copy of the Gita for swearing if the
need be. The Koran Sharif and the Granth Sahib are never kept in the Courts.
I am told by the members of the Bar, that binging these two would invite very strong
objecions from Muslims and Sikhs.

Bharat Gupt
Associate Professor , Delhi University.

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