Every President and every person acting as President or discharging the functions of the President shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India or, in his absence, the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court available, an oath or affirmation in the following form, that is to say —
"I, A.B., do swear in the name of God / solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend theConstitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India”.
Article 49, Draft Constitution of India, 1948
Every President and every person acting as President or discharging the functions of the President shall before entering upon his office make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India an affirmation or oath in the following form, that is to say-
"I, A. B., do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India."
The Constituent Assembly debated Draft Article 49 (Article 60, Constitution of India, 1950) on 27 December 1948. It puts down an oath or affirmation for the President to take before entering his/her office.
A member wanted to explicitly mention ‘God’ in the oath. He was concerned with the lack of invocation of ‘grace and blessing of God’ in the Constitution. The Indian religious and spiritual legacy has given special prominence to God: every religion including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism invoke God in religious texts and ceremonies. He added that the Constitution was sacred and must be offered to God. In opposition, a member argued that this amendment would ‘be excluding those people who have no faith in God at all’. He noted that this amendment would create an 'obligation on people that they should have faith in God'.
Another member passed a similar amendment. However, in his proposal ‘agnostics’ were given a choice to not invoke God and just ‘solemnly affirm’. This amendment, he argued, protected a person’s freedom of faith. Mention of ‘God’ in the oath does not impinge on the ‘secularity’ of the Indian State. Further, when a person has taken an oath, they do so in their personal capacity and not as the official head of the State. He also drew on the British and Irish examples to demonstrate how the invocation of God does not lead to communalism.
Generally opposing the use of ‘God’ in the oath, a member argued that it was unnecessary to invoke ‘God’ who is omnipresent. Instead, he urged that oath must be taken in the name of the people of India, as laid out in the Irish Constitution.
There was a proposal to delete the Draft Article. The mover noted that the Constitution was human-made and imperfect, the name of perfect God should not be dragged into the Constitution.
A member put forth a case for including promise to not promote one’s interest and family’s aggrandisement. He highlighted that the values of the Indian freedom struggle must not be ‘copy-book maxim’ but be extended to real life.
The Chairman of the Drafting Committee was in support of the inclusion of ‘God’. He believed this would not alter the ‘secular’ state. It was pointed out that the oath did not carry any legal obligations; a person swearing an oath is bound by its “purely moral” obligations. The President must have the liberty to swear in God’s name or otherwise.