Report No. 28
5. Meaning of oath.-Coke1 has defined an oath as an affirmation or denial by any Christian of anything before one or more persons who have authority to administer the same, for the discovery and advancement of truth and right, calling God to witness that the testimony is true. In the leading case of Omychund v. Barkers, 1744 (1) Atk 21: Willes 538: I Wills (KB) 84: 26 ER 15,2 it was, however, said that oaths are as old as creation and their essence is an appeal to the Supreme Being as thinking Him the rewarder of truth and avenger of falsehood and that Lord Coke was the only writer who had grafted the word "Christian" into an oath,
1. Coke, 3 Inst. 164, cited in Boland and Sayer's Oaths and Affirmations, (1961), p. 1.
2. see Cockle Cases and Statutes on Evidence, (1963), pp. 279-280.
6. Taylor1, after referring to the ordinary definition of oath, namely "a religious asseveration by which a person renounces the mercy and imprecates the vengeance of Heaven, if he do not speak the truth2", goes on to say-
"The definition may be open to comment, since the design of the oath is not to call the attention of God to man, but the attention of man to God, not to call upon Him to punish the wrong-doer, but on the witness to remember that He will assuredly do so; still it must be admitted that, by thus laying hold of the conscience of the witness, the law best insures the utterance of truth.".
1. Taylor Evidence, (1931), Vol. 2, p. 872, para. 1382.
2. R. v. White, (1786) 1 Lea 430; Queen's case, (1820) 22 RR 662. See Best on Evidence, 1922, p. 43.