High Court: Decision not to disclose number of Indian soldiers wrong

A capture from the Opposition Coalition's rally 'Maldivians in Defense of Independence' held on November 12, 2021. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Hayyan)

High Court, on Thursday, ruled that the Information Commissioner’s Office had wrongfully decided not to disclose the exact number of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives for various purposes and the details of the expenses incurred for their stay.

Journalist at Dhiyares, social media activist Ahmed Azaan put in a request to the Defense Ministry, asking to disclose information on foreign military personnel stationed in the Maldives. The Ministry refused to disclose the information, citing that it concerned national security. Defense Ministry’s decision was also seconded by the Information Commissioner’s Office (iCOM).

Azaan appealed the case to High Court.

The judgement in the appeal delivered on Thursday read that that iCom had failed to adequately prove the reason they had cited for deciding against disclosing the number of the soldiers.

Underscoring that their decision was reliant on a ‘confidential agreement’ involved in the case, the judgment said it was unclear whether iCom had undertaken sufficient efforts to verify the alleged terms of the confidential agreement. It was stressed that the commission’s decision had been entirely based on MNDF’s words.

The judgment also said iCom should have detailed the specific threat to national interest if the information in question is made public.

Therewith, High Court ruled that iCom must review their decision.

The three judges who presided over the case, High Court Chief Judge Hussain Shaheed, who chaired the bench, Judge Hassan Shafeeu and Judge Huzaifa Mohamed had been unanimous in their ruling.