The Ministry had refused to provide information requested by RTI applicant Suhas Chakma which dealt with 'commission rogatoire' - a set of questionnaires sent by a Judge in Geneva - about an Indian, Ravi Nair, in connection with a criminal case pertaining to many illegal activities apart from money laundering.
Chakma had asked the ministry to confirm whether it has received commission rogatoire from Judge Marc Tappolet in Geneva, a copy of the commission rogatoire, if received, and action taken by Indian government on it.
The ministry refused to share information on the issue saying it would adversely affect the national sovereignty, security or integrity and hamper the investigations.
"Non disclosure or inaction on the part of the authorities concerned will be seen in poor light not only at the national but also at the international level in as much as it will be almost be assumed to be an attempt to shield the guilty.
"Hence, it is the considered opinion of the Commission that complete information as sought by the appellant, being of paramount public interest, must be shared and disclosed forthwith," Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit said.
Dixit said Chakma, a human rights activist through his arguments, has "clearly established" that the public interest outweighs personal interests and exemptions as sought by the CPIO.
"One of the foremost reasons cited by the appellant for seeking the information against Ravi Nair, who happened to be a co-founder with the appellant of the organisation SAHRDC, was that Nair had evaded taxes to the tune of 40 per cent by receiving foreign grants which neither he nor the organization was entitled to receive under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 1976," she mentioned in her order.
The Commissioner said this alleged "irregularity" has been stated in the order of a Swiss court as acknowledged in the order of the Tribunal de Premiere Instance of Geneva Canton, Switzerland.
The court had issued repeated summons to Nair to explain the "source of funds" transferred to the account of South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) in the criminal case instituted against him for his involvement in many criminal activities apart from money laundering, the commission observed.
Dixit mentioned that his non-appearance led to issuance of commission rogatoire by the Swiss court seeking assistance from the Indian Government but even that did not happen.
"National interest demands that all available information in this regard be disclosed and the perpetrators of such offences be traced and appropriate action be taken against them," she said.