The High Court has refused to hear an appeal by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contesting a directive from the Information Commissioner requiring the party to comply with the Maldives’ Right to Information Act. This case marks the first occasion a political party has challenged the Act’s application due to non-compliance allegations.

The controversy began when an individual requested information from the MDP—boasting over 57,000 members and receiving yearly state funding—regarding potential coalition deals with the Adhaalath Party and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) during the 2023 presidential elections. The query also sought details regarding the MDP’s guidelines for evaluating coalition offers from other parties.

Following the MDP’s failure to respond within the mandated timeline, the Information Commissioner’s Office of Maldives (ICOM) in October 2023 ordered the party to release the requested information, asserting that state funding subjects the MDP to the Right to Information Act’s provisions.

During an ICOM hearing, MDP’s lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef contended that political parties fall outside the Act’s definition of state institutions. Despite this, the High Court’s registrar dismissed the MDP’s appeal, citing the party’s failure to present a cogent legal argument or evidence supporting its claim.

This dismissal came against the backdrop of a previous High Court ruling, which mandated that all entities receiving state budget funds must adhere to the Right to Information law. This ruling stemmed from an appeal involving State Owned Enterprises’ reluctance to disclose information.

However, due to the lack of a definitive Supreme Court judgment on whether state-owned companies are subject to the Right to Information law, many such companies continue to deny information requests. This group includes public companies and those fully owned by the government.

The Maldives’ political party laws mandate state funding for parties with over 10,000 members, provided as a portion (0.1 to 0.2 percent) of the total state budget. Since the introduction of this policy in 2015, the MDP has annually received state funding, with last year’s figure standing at MVR 15.1 million, in addition to collecting over MVR 10 million annually in preceding years.