Witness’ refusal to take oath
I have been summoned by the Court to attend as a witness. I am told that the Court will require me to take oath before I give my testimony but taking oath is contrary to my faith. Am I allowed to refuse to take an oath on the ground that taking an oath goes against my faith?
As a general rule any person appearing in Court or tribunal to give evidence should take oath before he/she gives evidence. Only a child of a tender age is allowed to give evidence without taking oath but still he/she must promise the Court to tell the truth before being allowed to give evidence without taking oath.
Evidence given without taking oath without lawful excuse is as good as no evidence and the appellate Court can expunge it from the Court record in case the decision is appealed. A witness who refuses to take oath without lawful excuse is committing the offence of contempt of Court contrary to section 114(1)(b) of the Penal Code [Cap.16 R.E 2019] and in case of conviction is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months.
Where a witness objects to take oath on the ground that he/she has no religious belief or that taking oath is contrary to their religious belief, section 4 of the Oaths and Statutory Declarations Act [Cap.34 R.E 2002] allows such witness to make a solemn affirmation instead of taking oath and such affirmation gives the evidence the same legal weight like evidence given under oath. As a witness you will have the right not to take oath but will need to inform the Court why you don’t want to take oath for you to be excused from taking oath and take solemn affirmation instead. Unreasonable refusal to take oath without giving lawful excuse constitutes the offence of contempt of Court and is punishable.