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Data: MPs of 18th Lok Sabha Take Oath in 22 Different Languages; Significant Drop in Share of MPs Taking Oath in English

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Article 99 of the Constitution of India mandates that every MP must make an oath or affirmation, a prerequisite for participating in parliamentary proceedings, voting, and exercising any legislative powers. MPs can only make and subscribe the oath or affirmation in English or in any of the twenty-two languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. Data indicates that MPs of the 18th Lok Sabha took oath in 22 different languages while share of MPs who took oath/affirmation in English has dropped from nearly 21% in 2014 to 7% in 2024.

The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha commenced with the oath-taking ceremony of newly elected MPs. The oath or affirmation taken by MPs is not just a constitutional formality but a profound declaration of their commitment to the Constitution, the nation, and their constituents. It ensures the legitimacy of their role, reinforces ethical standards, and symbolizes the core values of Indian democracy. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the leader of the House, took the oath first, followed by the panel of chairpersons. Union Ministers then took oath following which the remaining MPs were sworn in alphabetically by state and union territory. Apart from the official languages of Hindi and English of the Union, some MPs chose to take oath in their mother tongue or other languages including Kannada, Odia, Assamese, Telugu, Dogri, Malayalam, and Sanskrit, among others. 

While the ceremony was a display of India’s linguistic diversity, BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy from Saran, Bihar expressed disappointment that he couldn’t take his oath of office in Bhojpuri, since MPs can only make and subscribe to the oath or affirmation in English or in any of the twenty-two languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. He then took the oath in Hindi. In this story, we look at the rules surrounding oaths/affirmations taken by MPs and the trends in the languages used for the same.

Oath/affirmation by MPs is a prerequisite for participating in parliamentary proceedings

Article 99 of the Constitution of India mandates that every member of either House of Parliament (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) must take an oath or affirmation before taking their seat. This is a prerequisite for participating in parliamentary proceedings, voting, and exercising any legislative powers.

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The Third Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides the forms or exact wordings for oath and affirmation for various constitutional positions, including members of Parliament and state legislatures.

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Oath involves invoking a divine entity while affirmation omits religious reference

The difference between an oath and an affirmation in the context of the Indian Parliament primarily lies in the presence or absence of religious connotations. An oath involves invoking a divine entity, typically using the phrase “swear in the name of God,” thereby incorporating a religious element. In contrast, an affirmation is a secular declaration that omits any religious reference, using the phrase “solemnly affirm” instead. Both the oath and the affirmation serve the same legal purpose, binding the members to uphold the Constitution and discharge their duties faithfully. 

After the general election, the oath or affirmation to newly elected MPs is administered by the Pro tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Pro Tem Speaker is a senior member of the House appointed by the President of India as per Article 95 (1). This temporary speaker’s primary responsibility is to oversee the oath-taking process of the new MPs and facilitate the election of the permanent Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Once the permanent Speaker is elected, the role of the Pro tem Speaker concludes.

Oath or affirmation can be taken in English or in any of the 22 scheduled languages

MPs can only make the oath or affirmation in English or in any of the twenty-two languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. These 22 languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odiya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.

Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution. Sindhi was added in 1967. Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were included in 1992. Subsequently, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were added in 2004. 

Apart from these, there are demands for the inclusion of 38 more languages in the Eighth Schedule including Bhojpuri, Tulu, Khasi, Pali, etc. However, oath or affirmation cannot be taken in these languages since they have not been included in the Eighth Schedule yet.

The form of oath or affirmation as given in the Third Schedule is adhered to in the case of the English version. Similarly, the forms given in the Third Schedule of the Constitution translated into different languages can be used for taking oaths in other languages.

Data about the languages in which oaths or affirmations were made by Lok Sabha MPs is available in Dataful. This data has been used for the following analysis. 

Oath or Affirmation was made in 23 languages at least once in the last six Lok Sabha sessions

During the last six Lok Sabha sessions, an oath or affirmation was made in a total of 23 languages at least once, including English and the 22 scheduled languages. In 2004 and 2024, the number of languages used was the highest with 22. The only language that was not used for the oath was Bodo in 2024 and Konkani in 2004. 

In 2009, only 17 languages were used which gradually increased to 22 in 2024. The increasing number of languages represents the linguistic diversity of the country. It could also be because more MPs have opted to use their regional language which is a representation of their community and region while connecting them with the people of their constituency. 

Share of MPs taking oath in English has dropped considerably

The increase in number of languages also comes at a time when there has been widespread debate about the imposition of Hindi, especially in the southern states. If the share of MPs who took oath/affirmation in Hindi out of the total is considered, their share had dropped from 43% in 2009 to less than 38% in 2014. However, since then the figure has increased to 40% and 42% in 2019 and 2024, respectively. Meanwhile, the share of MPs who took oath/affirmation in English has dropped from nearly 21% in 2014 to 7% in 2024.

Some other regional languages that have been used by a substantial number of MPs every year in their oath/affirmation are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, and Sanskrit.

MPs from West Bengal have taken oaths in 6 different languages

Between 2009 and 2024, MPs from West Bengal had taken oath/affirmation in a total of 6 different languages. MPs from Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, and Odisha used 5 different languages each. No MP from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh has ever taken an oath/affirmation in English while no MP from the states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Karnataka took an oath in Hindi. 

Only a handful of MPs have taken oath in Dogri, Sindhi, and Nepali

Interestingly, an MP from Tamil Nadu, K Gopinath from Krishnagiri constituency took oath in Telugu. This is the first time that an MP from the state has taken an oath in a language other than Tamil or English since 2009. This is also an indication that the language chosen is a personal preference of the MP and is not determined completely by the state they come from. In Telangana, Asaduddin Owaisi is the only MP from the state who has ever taken oath in Urdu and has done so in all the three Lok Sabha terms the state has been part of. Even in 2009 when Hyderabad was part of Andhra Pradesh, Owaisi took oath in Urdu.

Shankar Lalwani from the Indore constituency who won with a margin of 10 lakh votes took oath in Sindhi language in both 17th and 18th Lok Sabha terms. He is the only person to have taken oath in the language during the last two sessions. Indra Hang Subba and Raju Bista from Sikkim and Darjeeling respectively are the only MPs who took oath in Nepali language. They took oath/affirmation in the 17th and 18th Lok Sabha sessions. Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore from Udhampur and Jammu constituencies took oath/affirmations in the Dogri language in the 17th and 18th Lok Sabha sessions as well.

The diverse linguistic choices made by MPs during the oath-taking ceremony highlight the rich diversity of India’s cultural heritage and regional identities. This practice underscores the inclusivity in the Indian Parliament. While certain languages have seen limited representation, the overall trend points to a growing embrace of linguistic diversity. 

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About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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