High Court to livestream hearings in case submitted over refusal to disclose no. of Indian soldiers

High Court of the Maldives. (Sun File Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

High Court has concluded to livestream the hearings in the appeal filed at the court over the Defense Ministry’s refusal to disclose the number of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives upon request.

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 seconded by Information Commissioner’s Office as well.

The first hearing in the appeal case lodged at High Court over this decision, was held today.

Appellant in the case had requested to proceed with a trial by livestreaming the hearings. The state and the Information Commissioner’s Office had not objected to this request.

Therefore, the judges’ bench presiding over the case had decided to livestream the hearings. With the decision to livestream hearings, today’s hearing was concluded without any further proceedings. Subsequently, the next hearing in the case will be livestreamed.

The bench overseeing the case includes Judge Hussain Shaheed, Judge Abdulla Hameed and Judge Hassan Shafeeu. Judge Hussain Shaheed chairs the bench.

Defense Ministry, in reasoning their decision to not disclose the number of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives, said that if military personnel from a country is stationed in another country, the number of soldiers stationed would be disclosed by the country they are from. The Ministry added that disclosing such information by Maldives, will threaten its national security.

Apart from the number of foreign soldiers stationed in the Maldives, Azaan had also requested to disclose the expenditure on them. In countering this request, Defense Ministry said that disclosure of such information may impact the diplomatic ties formed between two countries. They also added that the information can be used to identify the number of soldiers.

For different uses, and transfer of critical patients from one island to another, Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) utilized two helicopters donated by India. The helicopters are operated by Indian military personnel.

The helicopters were brought to the Maldives in 2010. While one of it is stationed at Addu City, the other is stationed at L. Gan.