ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Use and Abuse of Oath-taking

Arguably, taking oath is an ethical virtue and perhaps also a device that, therefore, demands from the oath- taker an intense allegiance and firm commitment to norms and textualised principles that make political practices and the resultant social order decent. Oath-taking thus plays an important function in offering affirmation of public pronouncements and decisions backed by the moral force of the oath.

Arguably, taking oath is an ethical virtue and perhaps also a device that, therefore, demands from the oath- taker an intense allegiance and firm commitment to norms and textualised principles that make political practices and the resultant social order decent. Oath-taking thus plays an important function in offering affirmation of public pronouncements and decisions backed by the moral force of the oath. Put differently, the force of reason that is supposed to reside in public decisions or political alliances needs to be assisted by the moral strength that is internal to the pledge of an oath.

The political mobilisation of the underprivileged—led particularly by Dalit Bahujan thinkers and public figures—was triggered by the ethical force of the oath. Among others, it was B R Ambedkar who took the assistance of a pledge in order to drive home the importance of convertion to Buddhism. The 22 oaths taken by the several lakh erstwhile untouchables who embraced Buddhism appealed to the neo-Buddhists and sought to induce in them the need for a reaffirmation of transformative or transcendental reason. Similarly, the social activists in contemporary times have been appealing to the people to take an oath by expressing their commitment to abide by the normative principles enshrined in the Constitution.

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Updated On : 1st Oct, 2022
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