In a recent ruling, the High Court has ordered the disclosure of receipts from the President's visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The decision comes after Dhiyares Media utilized the Right to Information Act to request the receipts in order to verify the officially disclosed cost and number of participants in the President's 2021 trip.
Initially, the President's Office refused to disclose the requested information, citing concerns over the privacy of the visit's participants and potential threats to the President's personal safety. However, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICOM) ruled that the President's Office should disclose the information, with any necessary redactions made prior to release.
Unsatisfied with the ICOM's ruling, the President's Office appealed the decision at the High Court. Today, the High Court upheld the ICOM's ruling, emphasizing that the Right to Information Act should be interpreted within the broader policy and objectives of the Act. The Court highlighted that the Act's purpose is to provide the public with information about state agencies in the most comprehensive manner possible.
Addressing the concern raised by the President's Office regarding potential disclosure of personal information, the High Court noted that withholding information based solely on personal information would severely hinder the public's right to access and obtain information. Furthermore, the Court ruled that the President's Office failed to provide a legal justification for not releasing the receipts after redacting personal information.
The High Court additionally stated that interpreting the law to allow document withholding based on personal information would be inappropriate. Instead, the Court ruled that if a document contains information that cannot be withheld under the law, it should be released after removing such information.
The ruling was passed unanimously by the judicial panel at the High Court, demonstrating a consensus on the matter among the Court's members.