To commemorate the Constitution Day, the Research Committee, Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, organised a Panel Discussion titled ‘Future of Right to Information post the RTI (Amendment Act) 2019’ on 26 November 2019.
Practitioners and experts on the Right to Information and Constitutional Law discussed the varied dimensions related to the broader theme of the Right to Information.
The event began with the recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by the opening address by the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof. (Dr.) S. Z. Amani.
Setting the theme for the discussion, Prof. Amani spoke about the trajectory of evolution of the Right to Information under the Constitutional framework, that finally culminated into the RTI Act of 2005 and the RTI Amendment Act of 2019. Lastly, he concluded the speech by reciting the Preamble of the Constitution.
The event was chaired by bureaucrat and the first Chief Information Commissioner of the country Mr Wajahat Habibulallah. The Honourable Chair discussed the recent amendment to the Act through his vast experience of serving with the bureaucracy and the wisdom and knowledge of having known the system inside out. Further, he tried to analyse the role of the judiciary and categorically discussed the Sanjeev Khanna (2008) judgement where the Court refused to bring the judiciary under the ambit of the Right to Information Act because it will open a Pandora’s Box that may have adverse impact for the independence of the Judiciary.
He further emphasised that every law requires public participation. He raised serious aspersions on retaining independence of the office of the Information Commissioner in the absence of any settled understanding regarding its constitutional stature.
Concluding his inaugural remarks on a contemplative note, Mr. Habibullah opened the event for the Keynote address and subsequent panel discussion.
The Keynote Address was delivered by Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu, former Chief Information Commission and current Dean, School of Law, Bennett University.
Prof. Acharyulu started his address by equating the Stature of Constitution to the Holy Books. Assigning a position of centrality to the Right to information in the golden triangle ofConstitution i.e., Art. 14, 19 and 21, he critically analysed the role of the judiciary and its mandate of upholding constitutional rights, especially those pertaining liberty.
He further discussed the importance of the Right to Information in our country and the bold steps taken by the various CICs including Mr Habibullah in the recent past.
Taking the discussion further, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India, Mr. Ranji Thomas expressed his opinion on the recent amendment to the Right to Information Act.
Taking a very critical view of the same, he highlighted the fact that any effort towards curtailing people’s right to information would amount to the murder of the democracy.
Mr. Navneet R., Advocate, Supreme Court, presented his critique of the Act and the recent Amendment. While he was more forthcoming in seeing a positive potential in the recent amendment, he expressed his scepticism towards the actual effectiveness of the Act, which according to him was a ‘toothless tighter’ and he asserted these lacunae would accentuate in the gaping holes left open in the recent amendment.
Prof. (Dr.) Kahkashan Y. Danyal, Professor, Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, moderated the programme. In her final remarks, Prof. Danyal highlighted the significance of the Right to Information as a safeguard to protect and strengthen the ethos of the Constitution.
Students participation was evident from a string of critical and thought provoking questions which were very graciously engaged and answered by the esteemed guests.
Dr. Noorjahan Momin (Assistant Professor & Subject Advisor, Faculty of Law, JMI) delivered the vote of thank, thus concluding, what could be regarded as evocative and thought-provoking session of discussing and engaging with the Right to Information Act and the recent amendment to it in the constitutional framework.