ICOM decision to back Defense Ministry on withholding details of Indian army personnel to be appealed at HC

Helicopter gifted to Maldives by India | Photo: adduLIVE

Male’, Maldives – The decision of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICOM) to support the decision of the Ministry of Defense of Maldives to withhold the number of Indian army personnel station in Maldives will be appealed at the High Court of Maldives, says local media outlet “Dhiyares”, which requested the information from the Ministry.

The issue arose when the Ministry refused to reveal the number of Indian army personnel present in the Maldives, in response to a Right To Information (RTI) form submitted by Dhiyares, to the Ministry. When denied the information, the matter was filed with ICOM for an appeal, due to which, four separate meetings were held, and the Information Commissioner of Maldives, Hussain Fiyaz Moosa declared that the decision of the Ministry to withhold the information was the appropriate decision.

Fiyaz explained that the decision was based on the fact that the Defense Ministry deems the information could pose a threat to the national security if divulged, which according to the law is not permissible. Along with the number of army personnel, it was also decided to withhold the expenses made on the army personnel, as the Ministry deemed that it would indirectly reveal the number of army personnel as well. The Ministry also highlighted that revealing such information would also negatively affect the diplomatic relationship between India and Maldives, both which was supported by ICOM.

However, Fiyaz explained that should the decision of ICOM not be satisfactory, the plaintiff does have the right to appeal the matter at the High Court of Maldives, which Dhiyares has exercised and filed with the High Court on Wednesday.

Revealing that they would be appealing the case at the High Court, Ahmed Azan Marzoog, who spoke on behalf of the news said that they are looking for a lawyer who is interested in taking on the case.

Currently the role of Indian army officers stationed in Maldives, are to operate the helicopters gifted by the country to the Maldives. The first helicopter was gifted in 2010 and in 2011 when the current speaker of parliament, Mohamed Nasheed was president. Since the first one was brought to the Maldives, MNDF has been saying that they were training Maldivian pilots to fly the choppers which until now has not happened. MNDF has denied to give out any information regarding the number of Indian personnel in Maldives nor the amount being spent by the Maldivian tax payers money on these personnel stating that it would be a risk national security.