MALE, Maldives - The High Court of the Maldives has scheduled a hearing on the case lodged against the Information Commission by Ahmed Azaan, a prominent journalist at the Maldives Journal/Dhiyares News. The case stems from a dispute over an information request Azaan filed to the Defence Ministry in 2020.
Azaan had sought to clarify the number of Indian soldiers currently stationed in the Maldives, a subject of intense public concern. However, his request was refused by the Defence Ministry, leading to a subsequent appeal to the Information Commissioner's office. The Commissioner too sided with the Defence Ministry, refusing to disclose the requested information.
In light of the Information Commissioner's decision, Azaan has taken the case to the High Court. The most recent hearing was held on the 4th of June 2023, where Azaan represented himself and argued his case before the Court.
A new hearing has been scheduled for the 13th of June, where both the Information Commissioner's office and the Defence Ministry are expected to respond to the appeal. This upcoming court session is set to offer a landmark legal challenge to the issue of military transparency in the Maldives.
The presence of the Indian military in the Maldives has raised eyebrows among the Maldivian public, primarily due to the undisclosed nature of the arrangements. Despite the government signing various military agreements with India, the terms of these agreements and the extent of India's military presence have remained largely shrouded in secrecy.
Azaan's case represents a significant push for transparency regarding foreign military presence in the Maldives. Estimates suggest that hundreds of Indian military personnel are stationed across the archipelago, but the exact number remains undisclosed.
This high-profile case draws attention to the balancing act between national security interests and the public's right to information. Depending on the High Court's decision, it could potentially have significant implications for how such issues are handled in the future.