Report No. 28
2. Historical background.-The Indian Oaths Act, 1873, did not enact any new laws. It merely consolidated1-2 the law on the subject which was contained in some old Regulations and in Act 5 of 1840.
Act 5 of 1840 was an important Act. It appears3, that before this Act was passed some old Regulations of the Government of the East India Company required that Muhammadans were to be sworn on the Quran and the Hindus on the water of the Ganges. Act 5 of 1840 abolished these forms of oath, and enabled Hindus and Muhammadans to give evidence on solemn affirmation.
The provisions of Act 5 of 1840 were extended by section 9 of Act 18 of 1863 to the High Courts. Then came Act 6 of 1872. The substance of that Act can best be given in the words of Lord Hobhouse, who was then the Law Member-
"That Act introduced two very important alterations One was this, that every witness who objected to take an oath might, instead, make a simple affirmation; and the other was that, notwithstanding any irregularity in the administration of any oath, or any irregularity in the making of an affirmation, or, in fact, any irregularity in the form or method of taking evidence, the proceedings should be valid.".
The Act of 1872 was repealed by the Act of 1873, which, contains the existing law on the subject.
1. See the Gazette of India, (1872), Supplement dated 3-8-1872, p. 889, under "Oaths and Affirmations Bill".
2. It appears that before the Act, the provisions were scattered in "four Acts, seven Statutes and fragments of resolutions". For a detailed review of the scattered statutory provisions existing at that time, see Gazette of India, (1873), Supplement dated 15-2-1873, pp. 235-241, particularly p. 237, bottom.
3. For history of the present Act, See Q.E. v. Maru, 1888 ILR 10 207 (213, 217).