Malé, Maldives – The High Court today upheld the right to information applicable to state-owned companies and the order to disclose information about the Bank of Maldives (BML).
In September 2020, Right to Information activist Ahmed Aimon Latheef requested Bank of Maldives to disclose the details of salaries and allowances and their positions, including the number of employees in each position of BML Board of Directors, senior management and all other levels working at the national bank.
When Aimon asked for details of the positions of BML board members and senior employees, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the information should be disclosed.
The decision was appealed on behalf of BML in the High Court on the ground that the Right to Information Act (RTIA) did not provide for the application of the Act to state-owned companies.
BML filed an application in the High Court seeking to quash the decision of the Information Commissioner. However, the court yesterday ruled that there was no legal or judicial basis to quash the Information Commissioner’s decision to release the details of BML’s salaries.
The High Court today ruled that under the Right to Information Act, entities performing a state responsibility can be considered as state agencies.
The judgment said BML was established by the state to provide banking services to the people and the state has a majority stake in the company, and that the law will also apply to the company.
The main objectives of the bank are to administer loans and grants as an agent of the Government as directed by the Government of Maldives, to provide credit to farmers, income generating persons, handicraftsmen, fishermen and self-employed persons in outer areas including providing adequate access to other resources on a reasonable basis, the ruling said.
If the Supreme Court does not overturn the ruling, any state-owned company other than BML will be considered a “state agency” under the Right to Information Act.
According to the unanimous judgment of three judges, the regulation made by ICOM stating that the Right to Information Act applies to state-owned companies is not illegal.
In addition, the judgment said that the information requested by Aimon Latheef is not confidential under the law.
Justice Hussain Mazeed, Justice Mohammed Niaz and Justice Hassan Shafiu unanimously ruled that there was no reason to change the ICOM’s decision.
The High Court has already ruled that the Act applies to state-owned companies in a case filed by MTCC. MTCC has now filed a petition in the Supreme Court.